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Background Information
1890 Yosemite National Park Debate


Yosemite is one of our nation's most valued national parks. However, Yosemite'ssignificance has not always been appreciated. Prior to 1890, only a small segment of today's 1,200-square-mile park was protected by government, and, prior to 1864, none of it was protected by law. The dominant mind-set of the time was utilitarian: if it's there, use it. In other words, land served an economic purpose and was meant to be used for mining, agriculture, logging, or grazing livestock. Economic limitations often prevented the preservation of beautiful places.

Fortunately, there were people who sought to improve America's cultural recognition in the world through enjoying its natural wonders. There was also a vocal group of conservationists and thinkers such as John Muir who passionately believed in the importance of protecting natural areas. Through Muir's writing and lectures, many Americans became aware of the grandeur of Yosemite. By camping with President Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite, Muir persuaded the president to create the national park system and preserve America's natural treasures.

This debate allows you to enter John Muir's world of 1890. Through researching and role-playing the battle to protect Yosemite as a national park, you may gain an understanding of our nation's early voices debating the value of setting aside vast tracts of land as parks. Furthermore, you may gain insight into many of today's environmental arguments and understand the many factors affecting any land use decision.

Use the space below (or a separate piece of paper) to write your initial ideas for the debate. Develop each statement more clearly as you do your research. As you prepare for and simulate the debate, keep in mind the different ways of valuing the environment. Ask yourself which ways your character values the environment and how those values affect the course of the debate.

  1. My Role:

  2. My Beliefs in this Role:

  3. Ways I Value the Environment in this Role:

  4. My Argument in this Role:

  5. My Own Beliefs on the Debate:

  6. The Ways I Value the Environment in My Own Life:

  7. How Do I Agree or Disagree with the Beliefs and Views of the Role I Played in the Debate?


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