H.R. 520: Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act

H.R. 520

Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act

Rep. Jackie Speier

June 17, 2013 (113th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Monday, June 17, 2013, the House will consider H.R. 520, the Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act,under a suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on February 5, 2013 by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark-up and reported the bill by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

H.R. 520 directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of alternatives for commemorating and interpreting the roles of the Buffalo Soldiers in the early years of the National Parks.  The study shall include:

  1. a historical assessment of the Buffalo Soldiers who served in National Parks;
  2. an evaluation of the possibility of establishing a national historic trail commemorating the journey the Buffalo Soldiers took from the Presidio of San Francisco to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks;
  3. a list identifying properties eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places or designated as National Historic Landmarks;
  4. an evaluation of how to enhance historical study and education of the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, as related to the National Parks; and,
  5. any other matters the Secretary of the Interior deems appropriate for this study.

The study is to be completed and reported to Congress within three years after funds are made available for the study.


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Buffalo Soldiers, the all African-American cavalrymen of the U.S. Army, rode from the San Francisco Presidio to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, serving as the protectors of several of the country's first national parks. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Young, the first African-American superintendent of Yosemite National Park, these de facto rangers built trails, preserved the giant sequoias, and protected the wildlife of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.

H.R. 520 directs the Secretary of the Interior to research the role of the Buffalo Soldiers in protecting these nascent parks and to examine, among other things, the possible creation of a national historic trail along the route used by these soldiers.

An identical bill (H.R. 1022) passed the House in the 112th Congress on January 25, 2012 by a recorded vote of 338-70 (Roll no. 10).


CBO estimates that, “conducting the study would cost about $400,000 over the next three years. Enacting H.R. 520 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.”[1]