Yosemite celebrates 150th anniversary

In this Monday, June 30, 2014, photo provided by Yosemite Conservancy, shows, Calif. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, third from left, (R-CA 4th District) Congressman Tom McClintock, (D-CA 16th District) Congressman Jim Costa, and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and other unidentified Yosemite Conservancy donors celebrate the groundbreaking of the restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant on June 30, 1864, ushering in the national park idea. (AP Photo/Yosemite Conservancy, Al Golub)
In this Monday, June 30, 2014, photo provided by Yosemite Conservancy, shows, Calif. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, third from left, (R-CA 4th District) Congressman Tom McClintock, (D-CA 16th District) Congressman Jim Costa, and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and other unidentified Yosemite Conservancy donors celebrate the groundbreaking of the restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant on June 30, 1864, ushering in the national park idea. (AP Photo/Yosemite Conservancy, Al Golub)

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) – Yosemite National Park on Monday marked 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln signed an act protecting the park for generations of visitors.

The celebration included a groundbreaking to launch a project restoring the Mariposa Grove, which comprises 500 mature giant sequoia trees that are among the oldest living organisms in the world.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said the anniversary should be a reminder of the ancient treasures within the park.

“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,'” Jarvis said.

Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act on June 30, 1864, in the midst of the Civil War. The act protected Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove “for public use, resort and recreation.” The law was the first in the nation’s history allowing for a scenic natural area to be set aside.

The grove restoration project was approved in December 2013. The $36 million project is paid for through $20 million in private contributions raised by the Yosemite Conservancy and $16 million from the National Park Service.

A parking lot that threatens the trees’ roots will be moved to another area and replaced with footpaths, among other changes to the park. The work will happen in phases over several years.

“The project will restore much of the Mariposa Grove to its natural state,” said the conservancy’s president, Mike Tollefson, “so that visitors will be able to experience one of the world’s most inspiring natural cathedrals in a more serene setting.”

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