The Republican governor made the announcement Thursday that she’s directed her office to file a lawsuit against the NPS after the agency denied a permit for the fireworks show this year.
“I’m going to file a lawsuit against the administration to get the fireworks back,” Noem said, reported SDPB Radio. “Because I have contracts, I have done all the permits, I’ve done all the work. We’ve gone through all of this.”
“There’s no reason to pull them from me, except for it being political. So, we’re going to challenge that. Unfortunately, That’s the only remedy that I have,” the governor said.
The annual Fourth of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore, which is surrounded by about 1,200 acres of forested lands within the Memorial’s boundary, had been canceled since 2009 due to wildfire risks. It only returned last year as the result of a joint effort by South Dakota government and the U.S Department of Interior under the Trump administration.
In a memorandum of agreement (pdf) signed in May 2019, the Interior Department and South Dakota government agreed to “exercise their full authorities under State and Federal law to work to return fireworks to Mount Rushmore National Memorial in a safe and responsible manner on July 3, July 4, or July 5, beginning in the year 2020.”
This March, however, NPS Regional Director Herbert Frost wrote in a letter to South Dakota government that the federal agency is “unable to grant a request to have fireworks at the Memorial,” citing concerns about the environment, public health, tribal opposition.
“Potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event,” Frost wrote. “In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial. These factors, compiled with the COVID-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site.”
In response, Noem urged President Joe Biden to uphold the 2019 MOA and reconsider canceling the fireworks display.
“We are committed to hosting a Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration that is safe and responsible and working closely with the National Parks Service to do so,” she wrote. “I respectfully ask that you continue the hopeful message you shared earlier this year and uphold our Agreement to host the event this year.”
Noem was joined by a group of her state’s Republican Congressional delegates, namely Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, and Rep. Dusty Johnson. In a joint statement, the lawmakers argue that the NPS decision is based on politics rather than science.
“Let’s be clear, this decision is political, not evidence-based,” the letter reads. “President Biden just said himself that Americans can safely gather by July 4—What’s changed in a day? Last year millions watched the celebration in awe, and it’s a shame the administration is denying Americans that opportunity this year”