One-hundred-and-fifty years after President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, the anniversary was used to launch an ambitious revitalization of the Mariposa Grove of sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park.
'On the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, we stand in awe among these giant trees that are thousands of years old and are reminded about the importance of protecting our natural resources so that future generations can experience what John Muir called 'nature's forest masterpiece,'' said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis at public ceremonies attended by thousands on Monday.
Congressmen Tom McClintock and Jim Costa, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher, and Yosemite Conservancy's Chair Phil Pillsbury and President Mike Tollefson spoke of how the Yosemite Grant Act gave birth to the idea of our national parks, about cultivating future stewards to preserve our natural places, and of supporting fundraising efforts to restore Mariposa Grove.
'Today, we commemorate the Yosemite Grant and we renew President Lincoln's vision by making a commitment to protecting this majestic grove for our children and the children of future generations,' said Superintendent Neubacher.
On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act 'authorizing a grant to the State of California of the Yo-Semite Valley, and of the land embracing the Mariposa Big Tree Grove.' This legislation protected Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias 'for public use, resort and recreation.' Under this law, scenic natural areas were set aside and protected for the benefit of future generations for the first time in the history of our nation.
The Mariposa Grove, near Yosemite's South Entrance, contains about 500 mature giant sequoias, which are among the largest living things on Earth. In December 2013, the National Park Service approved a $36 million improvement plan for the Mariposa Grove funded by $16 million from the Park Service and $20 million in private contributions being raised by Yosemite Conservancy.
'The project will restore much of the Mariposa Grove to its natural state so that visitors will be able to experience one of the world's most inspiring natural cathedrals in a more serene setting,' said Mr. Tollefson. 'This is a generational opportunity for donors to contribute to the protection of an ancient treasure.'
After as many as 2,000 years undisturbed, the giant sequoias within the Grove have been unintentionally damaged by the heavy human traffic of recent decades. Their shallow roots bear the impact of a constant stream of automobiles and pedestrians, while parking lots, roads and culverts interfere with the Sierra Nevada's complex hydrology. Some of the plans to protect the trees and improve the area include relocating parking and visitor facilities to the South Entrance, reestablishing natural habitat in the location of the lower Grove parking area, converting several paved roads to pedestrian trails, improving natural water flows to reduce erosion, improving trails and adding new visitor education components. The restoration work will occur in phases over several years.