‘We’re suing them’: Gov. Noem going after Biden admin over canceled Mt. Rushmore fireworks

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The Biden administration has reportedly blocked South Dakota’s annual July 4th fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore in a move so brazen and unprecedented that Gov. Kristi Noem has had to turn to the nation’s federal courts for help.

“I’m going to file a lawsuit against the administration to get the fireworks back,” the Republican governor reportedly announced at a local Rotary Club event Thursday.

A day later, she followed through on the threat, according to the Argus Leader.

“The first-term Republican governor filed a lawsuit Friday against a group of President Joe Biden’s interior and parks services officials over a decision to cancel a previously planned fireworks celebration in the Black Hills,” the paper confirmed Friday.

“Noem said after a formal request to the administration was made asking for reconsideration, her office received no response, leaving the courts the last option for the state if fireworks at Mt. Rushmore are to return this summer,” the outlet added.

The tradition of a July 4th fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore began under former President Bill Clinton in 1998, but came to an unceremonious end the moment former President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

The tradition finally returned a decade later thanks to then-President Donald Trump.

In 2019, the Trump administration’s National Park Service signed a Memorandum of Agreement with South Dakota that authorized the state to “return fireworks to Mount Rushmore National Memorial in a safe and responsible way on July 3, July 4, or July 5, beginning in the year 2020.”

But America’s latest president, Joe Biden, now seeks to roll it back again. The administration has claimed that allowing the tradition to continue would pose a threat to the park, its employees, its visitors and nearby Indian tribes.

“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. In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial,” NPS wrote in a rejection letter last month, according to The Hill.

In a statement, Noem said that she’d responded by pointing to the Memorandum of Agreement and asking for reconsideration, but the NPS had tried to pull one of White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s notorious “circle back” moves on her.

“After telling us they’d ‘circle back,’ the Biden administration has not responded to our request to uphold the Memorandum of Agreement between the State of South Dakota and the National Parks Service (NPS) to host a safe and responsible national celebration and fireworks show,” she said.

The lawsuit filed Friday further reportedly notes that the administration has offered no specific details on the alleged threats that the July 4th celebration would pose.

“The letter made no attempt to quantify or otherwise characterize the risk level for this year’s planned event or how it differed from the risk level for the exact same event last year, which [the Interior Department] approved,” it reportedly reads.

What’s known is that environmental activists have long claimed that fireworks celebrations at Mount Rushmore pose a fire risk to the area. But former President Trump didn’t buy this narrative.

Speaking at a White House press briefing earlier that year, he recalled the conversation between him and Noem that had preceded the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement.

“So, the governor called. … [S]he said, ‘Do you think we can get fireworks back at Mount Rushmore?’ I said, ‘Why?’ ‘They haven’t been there for — like for 20 years.’ I said, ‘Why?’ ‘Environmental reasons.’ I said, ‘You mean you can’t have fireworks because of the environment?’ ‘Yeah, environmental reasons.’ I said, ‘What can burn? It’s stone.’ You know, it’s stone. It’s granite,” he said.

“So nobody knew why; they just said, ‘Environmental reasons.’ So I called up our people. And within about 15 minutes, we got it approved, and you’re going to have your first big fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, and I’ll try and get out there if I can,” he added.

Listen:

According to Newsweek, an “environmental assessment” conducted sometime in 2020 ultimately found that “fireworks wouldn’t significantly impact the memorial.”

If Noem ultimately wins her suit and fireworks are approved for this year, it’s not clear whether Trump would once again attend like he did last year.

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Vivek Saxena

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