Drought conditions have not abated in the Black Hills since the National Park Service’s March 12 rejection of South Dakota’s request for fireworks at Mount Rushmore and since the dramatic wildfires at Rapid City and Mount Rushmore at the end of March that underscored the rationale for NPS’s rejection; according to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln U.S. Drought Monitor, areas of extreme drought are expanding in the Great American West.
Yet contrary to that plain science, Governor Kristi Noem continues to assert that a drought-stricken biome is “the perfect place” to shoot fireworks:
There is a long history of celebrations of American independence at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, including fireworks displays from 1998 to 2009 and again in 2020. This year, as we mark our independence from this virus, Mount Rushmore would be the perfect place for a national celebration and fireworks show [Gov. Kristi Noem, letter to President Joe Biden, linked for download in press release, 2021.04.13].
Hmmm… “long history”? The memorial was authorized in 1925. In nearly a century of existence, Noem cites one recent eleven-year stretch and then one more show after an eleven-year gap as a “long history”?
And “perfect place”? A forest in drought with lots of deadfall that we’ve already seen catch quick fire multiple times this year is the perfect place for fireworks only if your intent is to put firefighters, the Red Cross, and your State Farm insurance agent on overtime.
Noem spills a lot of ink rebutting other reasons not to light explosives over a tinderbox, but she ignores the fundamental risk of wildfire that motivated the end of fireworks displays over Mount Rushmore in 2010. Ignoring the obvious scientific data and historically and recently proven risk of lighting fires in the Black Hills requires a level of selfish recklessness that would seem inconceivable… if we didn’t have the obvious and daily proven evidence of such reckless selfishness on the Second Floor of the South Dakota Capitol.