S. 203, 38th Congress, Regarding Yosemite Valley, May 17, 1864
This bill, signed into law by President Lincoln on June 30, 1864, represents the first time the federal government acted to protect and preserve scenic lands. Conservationists persuaded Senator John Conness to introduce a bill to keep Yosemite Valley from being ruined by increasing commerce and tourism. The bill granted Yosemite to the state of California.
Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration
Protecting Natural Resources - 1
The development of the west brought an ever-increasing number of settlers. When resources became depleted or despoiled, voices were raised to preserve the West’s scenic lands and their fragile environments. In 1864, Congress acted. Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias became the first parklands set aside by the federal government. They were initially granted to the state of California and later made part of the National Park Service when it was established by Congress in 1916.