150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act

BY Sarah Corapi  June 30, 2014 at 5:34 PM EDT

A view of the Domes in Yosemite National Park, photographed around 1865. Photo by Carleton E. Watkins

A view of the Domes in Yosemite National Park, photographed around 1865. Photo by Carleton E. Watkins

June 30 is an important date when it comes to land conservation in America.

On that day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill establishing Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as protected wilderness areas. It was the first time in U.S. history that land was designated for public use and preservation, and is viewed by many as the birth of the national parks system.

Monday marks the 150th anniversary of that preserved area — an area that expanded to become Yosemite National Park in 1890.

To commemorate the milestone, Yosemite and its surrounding communities are hosting art exhibits, special tours, reenactments, festivals and more. Park officials and others are also holding talks to reflect on the park’s legacy.

And amidst the celebration, another event is underway at the park: a $36 million project to restore the giant sequoia habitat in Mariposa Grove.

Hosting 3.7 million visitors annually, Yosemite is home to waterfalls, giant sequoias, glaciers and more within its 1,200 square miles.

Learn more about the park’s history and anniversary here.