Federal Judge Rejects Noem’s Mount Rushmore Fireworks Lawsuit

       A federal judge has rebuffed South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s efforts to force the National Park Service to grant the state permission to shoot fireworks from Mount Rushmore National Memorial to celebrate Independence Day this year. 

     The regional director of the National Park Service denied Noem’s request for a permit and the Republican governor sued the Dept of Interior, which includes the Park Service, calling the denial politically-motivated as well as “arbitrary and capricious.”

        The judge disagreed and court records show the denial cited COVID-19 concerns, the possibility of wildfires, water contamination, on-going construction at Mount Rushmore, and objections from local Native American tribes.

      Noem successfully pushed last year for a return of the event after a decade-long hiatus and has argued that agreement meant approval was already granted for this year. 

     According to court documents, though, part of that special use permit stated “issuance of this permit is for the current year 2020 and does not mean an automatic renewal of the event in the future.”

      Noem issued a statement after the judge’s decision, again making the claim that the Biden Administration had acted on completely arbitrary grounds and saying she was disappointed “the court gave cover to this unlawful action.”

      Noem also said her legal team will appeal what she called “this incorrect decision” so that the nation’s birthday can again be celebrated with fireworks at America’s Shrine to Democracy.

     The Cheyenne River Sioux was one of the tribes that opposed the fireworks show and Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier celebrated the court’s decision, saying “our sacred land and sites will remain at peace.”

       Frazier, who has clashed with Noem over multiple issues, called it “nother example of the Governor overreaching her authority on federal land and treaty territory of the Great Sioux Nation.”