It was the beginning of the 1800 and people wanted to enjoy the beauty of nature, fishing, bird watching and they started looking for places where they could do these things. This time period marks the beginning of the Ecological Conservation movement. This was the movement that recommended the preservation of nature in the country for future generations. During the 1800s multiple people explored the wilderness of America, bringing back extravagant pictures of the lands. A very popular book in 1872, named Picturesque America, had striking engravings of America’s attractive scenery.
One of the pictures represented Mirror Lake of Yosemite. Once people started seeing these majestic pictures of the nature, they began to realize the beauty in this world. Therefore, American people started to believe that these natural wonders were as valuable as the European castles and cathedrals, and made the decision of preserving these places. From this idea, the national parks were born, and Yosemite was the heart of the Ecological movement. Tourism in Yosemite started to occur as early as 1855, when James Mason Hutchings visited Yosemite valley.
He spent five days there and immediately fell in love with the place. He released a magazine, Hutchings’ California Magazine, which was meant to promote Yosemite. In 1860 he published the first guidebook to Yosemite. After Hutchings came Thomas Starr King, who wrote an article for a Boston paper. He even explained that Yosemite exceeded the Alps and the Andes. Albert Bierstadt, a famous landscape painter, created outstanding paintings of the valley and waterfalls, making the people even more curious and eager to visit the region.
The first hotel was built in 1857 and 1859, the Upper Hotel, which Hutchings bought in 1863 and moved to the valley permanently. By 1864, the amount of tourists drastically grew and attracted the attention of Israel Ward Raymond. He was interested in increasing the tourism, but was also interested in preserving the valley. He sent a letter to the U. S Senator John Conness, telling him to preserve the valley and the nearby sequoia trees. To support his argument, Raymond mentioned that the large pieces of granite were useless in timber production.
Conness soon introduced legislation into Congress in protecting Yosemite valley under the control of California. President Lincoln signed the bill on June 30, 1864. This bill did not create a national park, ut only gave California the responsibility of the land as the use of a state park. The protection of Yosemite marks the beginning of the national park system. This particular moment marks in the country history the time when American people became aware of the utmost importance of protecting the national lands and forests for future generations.
Another chapter in the Yosemite’s conservation history, was the time when the landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, expressed his vocal opinions about preserving the Yosemite valley. Olmsted was best known for the creation of the New York City Central Park. He was a strong proponent of conserving the Yosemite scenery and predicted that Yosemite will attract millions of people; “far noblest park or pleasuring ground in the world. ” Interestingly enough, at the start, Olmsted did not like Yosemite’s landscape. Slowly he fell under its spell. His first action was to hire geologists with the single goal of drawing a survey of Yosemite.
He was motivated to attract millions of people, he once said, “An injury to the scenery so slight that it may be unheeded by any visitor now, will be one of deplorable magnitude when its effect upon each visitor’s enjoyment in ultiplied by these millions. ” Olmsted, among many others in the beginning of the park’s history, was a strong advocate of teaching and encouraging the eager people to love the beauty of the place without exploring it for personal interests. The most important proponent of the Yosemite’s conservations and well known in the history of ecological movement was John Muir.
Initially, Muir came in contact of Yosemite as an employee of Hutchings’s. His life was strongly interrelated with the history of Yosemite. He fell in love with the beauty of the place and fought all his life to preserve it. Muir remains in history of the person responsible and recognized for making Yosemite a national park. After a long campaign of articles written by Muir who promoted the not only the natural beauty of Yosemite but also the geological history, Yosemite finally became a national park on October 1, 1890.
The park is the second national park entered in history after Yellowstone. At that time, many others thought like John Muir and they believed in the preservation of the natural beauty. The result was the formation in 1892 of the Sierra Club in San Francisco. The club fought for the protection of forested lands. This marked the beginning of the Environmental Movement. Furthermore, Theodore Roosevelt, who became president in 1901 remains in history as the president most interested in nature and in preserving it.
Roosevelt was an novice naturalist, a brilliant birder and a passionate hunter. His strong love for nature gives him the name of the most conservation minded president to hold office. During his term, he was able to enlarge the national forest system and created sixteen national monuments, and five new national parks. Since he had such a strong feeling towards nature, it was only normal for him to meet John Muir. In 1903, during his visit to California, Roosevelt requested that Muir conducted the Yosemite’s tour.
During the tour, Muir was able to convince Roosevelt to extend the preserved forest land for the rest of the Sierra Nevadas and all the way to Mount Shasta. In 1905, Yosemite was in the hands of the federal control. Muir’s long fight for protecting Yosemite seemed to finally end when Yosemite passed under the federal control. Muir thought that it was protected from additional damage. Unfortunately, the Congress, in 1901, passed a bill stating that allowed for water channels to go through national parks. This occurred with Muir or the Sierra Club not knowing.
Instantly after, San Francisco asked to build a dam and reservoir in the Hetch Hetchy Valley, a not so known valley but of equal beauty with the Yosemite Valley. Of course, the Sierra Club was opposed to the idea and soon started writing articles defending the valley. After twelve years of fierce battle and controversy, it was voted that Hetch Hetchy Valley would become a dam. Muir was heartbroken. However, a positive outcome of this controversy was the creation in 1916 of the National Park Service, which gave the parks a new unity and purpose.
It is hard to believe until one meets Yosemite that this wonderful place inhabited first by the Native Americans and discovered by the Europeans in the 1800s creates and continues to do so such admiration but also controversy. Yosemite’s history shows its importance in the broader ecological conservation movement. On a span of almost 200 years, from its discovery through the end of the second World War II, Yosemite faced multiple threats ranging from lodging, tourism to the construction of an invasive dam. A pinnacle of natural beauty, Yosemite remains a highly popular tourist attraction and subject of worry for many environmentalists.