Noem says she will try again for Mount Rushmore fireworks

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem indicated Tuesday she will try again to hold a fireworks display over Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day on the heels of President Joe Biden’s announcement that the White House will be hosting its own “independence from the virus” bash.

The National Parks Service in March denied the state’s application to hold the pyrotechnic display, reasoning that fireworks caused safety concerns at the monument, local Native American tribes objected to the celebration being held on land they hold as sacred and a mass gathering could still defy coronavirus precautions. In an effort to overturn that decision, the Republican governor has written a letter to the president, bashed Biden in the media and sued the U.S. Department of the Interior. All of those efforts have failed.

But after Biden announced Tuesday that he would be encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy, Noem said on Twitter that she would resubmit a request to hold fireworks at the monument on Saturday, July 3.

However, even if the federal government reversed its decision, the state would struggle to pull the event together with July Fourth weekend just weeks away. Noem’s administration previously said in court that in order to have enough time to organize a fireworks event at the site, it would have to know by June 2 whether it would be allowed.

The governor’s spokesman, Ian Fury, said Noem will reach out to the “Biden Administration to ask them to reconsider their unlawful decision.” She has also said she will file an appeal of the judge’s order in her lawsuit.

Noem has used the issue as a political cudgel to frame herself as an opponent of Biden. She took to Twitter to lash out at the president, writing, “Why are you being so hypocritical? You’re having your own personal fireworks show in DC, but South Dakotans are told no?”

South Dakota has been dealing with drought and wildfires burned within the monument’s boundaries earlier this year, forcing the park to close for several days. But Noem has said that if the fireworks were allowed, the fire conditions would be monitored and organizers could cancel the show if the fire risk were too great.

Noem successfully pushed last year for a return of the event after a decade-long hiatus. It gave former President Donald Trump an opportunity to feature in a patriotic display attended by thousands of people during the pandemic. Noem has said there were no COVID-19 outbreaks linked to last year’s event.

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