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S. 203, A Bill authorizing a Grant to…California of the “Yosemite Valley,” and…the “Mariposa Big Tree Grove,” June 30, 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 of California to introduce a bill to keep Yosemite Valley from being ruined by increasing commerce and tourism. The bill granted Yosemite to California.

 

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

S. 203, A Bill authorizing a Grant to…California of the “Yosemite Valley,” and…the “Mariposa Big Tree Grove,” June 30, 1864

Yosemite National Park

The development of the West attracted a growing population. As settlement impacted natural resources, conservationists urged Congress to preserve some of the West’s most scenic and fragile environments. In 1864 Senator John Conness of California introduced a bill making Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias the first parklands set aside by the federal government. Congress initially granted them to California, but in 1890 designated them a National Park. Congress protected Yosemite from encroachment and made it part of the National Park Service established in 1916.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.

John Muir, The Yosemite, 1912