Grove Protected by Lincoln Offers Historical Perspective

Giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, Yosemite.
Giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, Yosemite.

Next week will be my second visit in eight months to the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park.  That makes me a lucky guy.  My wife Joanne and I visited the Grove in May, while our traveling companions, my mother-in-law Lola and her good friend Helen, enjoyed Yosemite Valley.  The average age of the two hearty women is 91 years. Joanne and I hiked through both the lower and upper groves, soaking in the Sierras’ invigorating spring air.

It is instructive to recall that Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley were protected in 1864, during the Civil War; President Lincoln signed the legislation.  The eloquent words of Frederick Law Olmsted in his report Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove:  A Preliminary Report, published in 1865, remind us that our nation has accomplished much while struggling with great burdens and tragedies.  Mr. Olmstead wrote:

Mammoth trunks of giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove.
Mammoth trunks of giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove.

“It was during one of the darkest hours (of the Civil War), before Sherman had begun the march upon Atlanta or Grant his terrible movement through the Wilderness, when the paintings of Bierstadt and the photographs of Watkins, both productions of the War time, had given to the people on the Atlantic some idea of the sublimity of the Yo Semite (sic), and of the stateliness of the neighboring Sequoia grove, that consideration was first given to the danger that such scenes might become private property and through the false taste, the caprice or requirements of some industrial speculation of their holders; their value to posterity be injured. To secure them against this danger Congress passed an act providing that the premises should be segregated from the general domain of the public lands, and devoted forever to popular resort and recreation….”

We plan to snowshoe through Mariposa Grove next week on a ranger-led hike arranged through the Yosemite Conservancy.  As we traverse the Grove, I will remind myself that today’s economic and political obstacles to land conservation are relative trifles, while also remembering Olmsted’s poetic description of Mariposa Grove:

“Besides this, there are hundreds of such beauty and stateliness that, to one who moves among them in the reverent mood to which they so strongly incite the mind, it will not seem strange that intelligent travelers have declared that they would rather have passed by Niagara itself than have missed visiting this grove.”

Watch this space next week for a fresh winter photo of Mariposa Grove!

About the author

Harry joined Save the Redwoods League’s staff in 2011 as the General Counsel. He brings over 30 years of experience in the fields of law and real estate transactions.

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