On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln gave us all a really great gift. That’s when he signed the Yosemite Grant Act to preserve Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove for future generations. What’s the big deal? Here’s what that gift meant, and why we should all know more about the Yosemite Grant…
The Beginning of America’s Best Idea
This historic move to preserve 39,000 acres of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove—by granting it to the State of California through the Yosemite Grant—helped pave the way for the creation of our country’s first national parks. Without the Yosemite Grant, which marked the first time in history that a piece of land was set aside to be protected for the enjoyment of everyone (not just royalty), who knows what would be left of our country’s greatest natural treasures. Today, there are 59 national parks across the country (and countless other national monuments, historic sites, lakeshores, and recreational areas that make up the National Park System). The best part about all of this is that these magnificent places belong to each and every one of us.
43,000 Miles of State Trails
Not to be overshadowed by our national parks, the Yosemite Grant marked the creation of California’s first state park—one of the first three state parks in the U.S. The move by lawmakers to preserve some of California’s most desirable land for recreational use, not financial benefit, helped inspire the birth of more than 6,000 state parks across the country. That’s more than 13 million acres of land, 43,000 miles of trails, and some 208,000 campsites in our backyards.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
The Yosemite Grant wasn’t just about protecting a piece of land (albeit, a really astonishingly beautiful piece of land). What it was really about was preserving a special place for many generations to come. And that may be the biggest reason we should celebrate. Many of our nation’s most majestic and sacred places will be preserved for everyone, for all time, thanks to the widespread preservation movement that the Yosemite Grant set in motion. Our kids, their kids, and kids 150 years from now will be able to walk in our footsteps and be just as inspired by these amazing places as we get to be. The Yosemite Grant really is the gift that keeps on giving.