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Yosemite Valley, by William Henry Jackson, ca. 1898

William Henry Jackson’s photographs showing the beauty of the American West helped persuade Congress to establish a system of national parks. Jackson, who moved to Nebraska in 1866, spent much of his life photographing railroads and the natural wonders of the West.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Yosemite Valley, by William Henry Jackson

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.