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Yosemite National Park: Protected for 150 Years

Yosemite National Park's Tunnel View scenic overlook offers expansive views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls and Half Dome. Bethany Gediman / Yosemite National Park

On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln took time out from the trauma and bloodshed of the Civil War to sign legislation to preserve two parcels of land in Mariposa County, California. Known as the Yosemite Grant, it didn’t just save the land from commercial development; it also laid the foundation for what we know as national parks today.

“Setting aside special places for all people for all time had never been done before,” said Mike Tollefson, president of the Yosemite Conservancy, the park’s philanthropic partner. “It launched the national park idea, not only in this country but worldwide.”

On Monday, the park will celebrate that 150-year legacy with a full schedule of events, including a heritage fair, museum exhibits and history hikes with “Galen Clark,” an early settler and the park’s first ranger. Bringing the festivities full circle will be a groundbreaking ceremony for the restoration of the park’s Mariposa Grove, which along with Yosemite Valley was originally preserved 150 years ago.

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