SciSun: Who’s Counting?   Leave a comment

This month is an important birthday celebration for America! No, not the Fourth of July – which is important (happy 238th birthday, USA!) – but the anniversary of Yosemite National Park, which is 150 years old this July. And even at that age, some of the trees in the park don’t look a day over 100.


Actually, Yosemite Park isn’t quite 150; in 1906, when President Teddy Roosevelt signed the Preservation of American Antiquities Act, giving the president power to set aside natural historic and natural sites as national monuments, much of the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of Big Trees had previously been protected in 1864 by then-president Abraham Lincoln as the Yosemite Grant; a decision which created the basis of unique, public spaces that would become the National Park System and that was based upon the reports of an explorer and homesteader who came across the fantastic sights and sounds of Yosemite Valley in 1855 and fought to keep the land free from loggers, along with support of eastern intellectuals including Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed Central Park in New York.


Although in 1864 Yosemite, nor any other land, wasn’t a park as we know it today. In 1890, largely resulting from the work of John Muir, one of the earliest, and most vocal, advocates of conservation and protecting unique places, the US Congress declared 15,000 acres of government-owned forest as Yosemite National Park; even though there was no National Park Service, and for a time the army was assigned to protect and preserve the land. It took another 25 years and another President (“Bully!”) to link the original Yosemite Grant with the 1890 national park, and to create the National Park Service as a separate and non-military department dedicated to the preservation of natural and cultural resources.

President Theodore Roosevelt, left, and John Muir, on the right, in front of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.  Teddy's standing close to the edge, but he was never one to be cautious.

President Theodore Roosevelt, left, and John Muir, on the right, in front of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. Teddy’s standing close to the edge, but he was never one to be cautious.

While the anniversary could be 1855 or 1864 or 1890 or 1906, it’s not the date of Yosemite Park we’re celebrating; it’s the anniversary of the concept that would become the National Parks, with Yosemite as the first of those parks. With all the possible dates, selecting 1864 sounds a little random to us – although we’re happy to have Yosemite protected no matter how old it is – but 150 years is what the Park Service says and we’re not about to argue with them because they have Smokey the Bear on the payroll and he’s usually not in a very good mood.


So heading back to 1864, at that time there weren’t that many people in the Western US, and for them searching for gold and trying to live day-to-day and wondering if the Civil War would tear the country apart was more important than protecting natural landscapes and resources. In fact mining and timber were the two largest western industries at the time, and along with all the associated enterprises like railroads and construction and clearing the land for agriculture and ranching, hundreds of acres of forests and natural environments were being destroyed every day and as virtually everyone thought the resources were limitless, most saw no reason to stop. Even today, over a hundred years since much of the indiscriminate logging and cutting has ended, the scars of forests long gone can still be seen along many mountainsides, even bordering the edges of National Parks and Monuments.


So 150 years later is a good time to reflect and remember on the work of those who saw the future and took action to save lands, resources and unique environments so all of us can enjoy the natural world, today. Just as they fought 150 years ago (more or less!) to save what is now 747,956 protected acres of Yosemite National Park, we can protect and conserve today the natural spaces and species that are important to us. And to that, we can only say ‘Bully!”.



Michonne Says: Yosie-mitey sounds like a wonderful place. Anywhere with a place named ‘grove of big trees’ has to be wonderful. Is there is a ‘grove of big flowers’? And if there is, would they be too big to eat?? Maybe ‘grove of always-flowers’ is better.

Posted July 13, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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