War, the White House and Redwoods Conservation

The roots of redwoods conservation extend back more than 150 years, all the way to President Abraham Lincoln.

U.S. Cavalry with the Fallen Monarch tree, Mariposa Grove, 1899. In the days before park rangers, the army administered the national park.
U.S. Cavalry with the Fallen Monarch tree, Mariposa Grove, 1899. In the days before park rangers, the army administered the park.

In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln signed The Yosemite Valley Grant Act that transferred federal lands in the Yosemite Valley and nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the State of California, “upon the express condition that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation, and shall be inalienable for all time”. This was arguably the very beginning of the conservation movement in the U.S. — and it was inspired by the giant sequoias.

In short order, 19th century travel guides promoted the Mariposa Grove as a “must see” destination, well worth the “refuse food” and week-to-ten day journey by ferry, railroad, stagecoach, wagon, and horseback required to reach the giant sequoias.

Lincoln himself hoped one day to visit the giant sequoias, and on the day he was assassinated he’d reportedly told people around him that he wanted to go to California to thank the people for their support and “to see those big trees.”  Lincoln never saw the Mariposa Grove’s big trees, but because of his wartime action millions of people have, and up to 4,300 people per day will, “for all time.”

For more, check out this Yosemite Nature Notes video on the Mariposa Grove. It’s well worth watching all the way through, but skip ahead to about 5:15 if you don’t have time to watch all eight minutes.

 

This timeline traces the fascinating events surrounding the beginnings of the conservation movement and shows how it has evolved over the years.

Ready to plan your visit? Check out our Yosemite information on our Redwoods Finder Interactive map!

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Since 1918, Save the Redwoods League has protected and restored redwood forests and connected people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish.

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