Yosemite National Park is marking the 140th anniversary of the signing of the Yosemite Land Grant. On June 30, 1864, the United States granted the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the state of California through this piece of legislation.
The Yosemite Land Grant was signed by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. It was the first time land was preserved for its scenic values and for public benefit. This one act is the basis for the later concept of the national park and state park systems.
The land granted to California was set aside “…upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation; inalienable for all time…”
In 1890, over 1,400 square miles of land surrounding Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove became Yosemite National Park. There was increasing pressure to include the original Yosemite Land Grant properties into the national park. In 1906, California gave America´s first state park to Yosemite National Park. The lands protected by Yosemite National Park were more extensive at this time. A series of subsequent land exchanges reduced the size of the park to what is currently protected by the National Park Service.
The Yosemite Land Grant was a monumental act in the history of American conservationism and sets the foundation for much of the protection of federal lands to come. Americans and visitors from throughout the world are still benefiting from this historic act from 140 years ago.