Yosemite celebrates 150 years since Abraham Lincoln signed act protecting valley and grove


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In this Monday, June 30, 2014, photo provided by Yosemite Conservancy, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses the public gathered at a ceremony in Yosemite National Park to marking the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act and groundbreaking for 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, Yosemite and California State Parks Mounted Patrol open ceremonies marking the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act and groundbreaking for 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)


A park ranger holds a flag commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Land Grant during the Yosemite Grant sesquicentennial ceremony at Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove Monday, June 30, 2014. On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant which eventually led to the national parks system. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)


Dignitaries including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, third from left, swing sledgehammers onto the asphalt parking lot during a ceremonial groundbreaking for the eventual restoration of Mariposa Grove following a ceremony commemorating the Yosemite Land Grant sesquicentennial in the grove Monday, June 30, 2014. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)


Tribal elder Les James of the American Indian Council of Mariposa County, Inc. waves smoke from a bundle of herbs as a blessing during the Yosemite Grant sesquicentennial ceremony at Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove Monday, June 30, 2014. On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant which eventually led to the national parks system. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)


Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson wears the uniform of a Buffalo Soldier while saddled on his horse during the Yosemite Grant sesquicentennial ceremony at Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove Monday, June 30, 2014. On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant which eventually led to the national parks system. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)


A giant sequoia serves as a backdrop for the Yosemite Grant sesquicentennial ceremony at Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove Monday, June 30, 2014. On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant which eventually led to the national parks system. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, chats with Mike Tollefson, president of the Yosemite Conservancy while standing next to a giant sequoia before the start of the Yosemite Grant sesquicentennial ceremony at Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove Monday, June 30, 2014. On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant which eventually led to the national parks system. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)


File - In this Oct. 17, 2013 file photo, visitors at Tunnel View, like Kaori Nishimura and Eriko Kuboi, from Japan, center facing, enjoy the views of Yosemite National Park, Calif. Tunnel View is a scenic vista which shows off El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall. Yosemite National Park is celebrating the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Yosemite Grant Act, Monday June 30, 2014, which protected Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)


YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California — 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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