H.R. 4491: Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act

H.R. 4491

Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act

Rep. Jackie Speier

May 18, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2288 on Tuesday, May 18, 2010, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 2288 was introduced on January 21, 2010, by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark-up and reported the bill, by voice vote, on May 5, 2010.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4491 would require the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the National Park Service, to study alternatives for commemorating and interpreting the role of the Buffalo Soldiers in the early years of the National Parks. The Secretary would be required to include in the study a historical assessment of the Buffalo Soldiers who served in National Parks and an evaluation of the suitability and feasibility of establishing a national historic trail commemorating the route traveled by the Buffalo Soldiers. The report would have to be prepared and submitted to the Committee on Natural Resources within 3 years.


According to findings listed in the bill, the Buffalo Soldiers were African American U.S. military soldiers who served in the 19th and 20th century. One of the Buffalo Soldiers' responsibilities was protecting the land in some of the nation's first national parks, including Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. While serving in these national parks, Buffalo Soldiers participated in a number of activities such as patrolling the parks, building trails, stopping poaching, and serving in the roles that were later assumed by National Park rangers. The findings also note that 2016 will mark the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service and is "an especially appropriate time" to remember the service of the Buffalo Soldiers.

The National Trail System is a federally managed network of scenic, historic, and recreation trails that was created by the National Trails System Act of 1968. The system is managed by the NPS. The NPS is facing a huge maintenance deficit and collapsing national park infrastructure. According to CRS, the NPS backlog for maintenance on existing buildings, trails, and other infrastructure was more than $9 billion in FY 2006. The backlog is a result of the NPS failing to do scheduled maintenance and upkeep that was not funded or carried out according to plan. As a result of the backlog, NPS infrastructure is deteriorating. For instance, the estimated maintenance backlog more than doubled, from $4.25 billion in 1999, in just seven years. CRS notes that some estimates put the existing backlog as high as $12.42 billion.


A CBO score for H.R. 4491 was not yet available as of press time.