This report, included in the records of the Committee on Public Lands, recommended that the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove be set aside for the enjoyment of the public. The report described the landscape features in poetic language: “The myriads of dells, nooks, caverns, rocky-cliffs, forms of Pyramids, coves, spires, domes, Cathedrals, and castles, give an air of romance to these wild Alpine contortions every where unsurpassed as it is in stately sublimity and grandeur.” The committee consulted the report, which was authored by James M. Edmunds, Commissioner of the General Land Office, while considering the Yosemite Valley Grant Act of 1864.
Inspired by new paintings of the dramatic landscapes of the region, interest grew in protecting natural resources from exploitation and development. Conservationist John Muir paid special attention to the valley, having lived there intermittently for several months, and eventually led the charge to make the area a national park.
The first step in this journey was the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, which became law on June 30, 1864, and reserved the Yosemite Valley and nearby Mariposa Grove of sequoias for “public use, resort, and recreation.” This act was the first time the federal government set land aside solely for its natural beauty and is considered the genesis of the national park concept. Still, the federal government took no responsibility for the area’s conservation. Instead, the act dictated that the governor of California should appoint eight commissioners to manage the land. Yosemite National Park was formally established in 1890.