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Cranky Social Media Star Sues Over Denial of Rushmore Fireworks

The National Park Service denied Governor Kristi Noem’s request to subject the Black Hills to more risk of fire, pollution, and wasteful spending with another fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. The Governor of South Dakota is thus going to make a federal case out of not being able to shoot her bang-bangs:

Governor Noem made her announcement at a speech before the Watertown Rotary Club on Thursday.

“I’m going to file a lawsuit against the administration to get the fireworks back,” Noem said.

The governor says the document allowing last year’s July fireworks event included a multi-year agreement.

“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 [Lee Strubinger, “Noem to Sue Park Service for Dousing Rushmore Fireworks Show,” SDPB Radio, 2021.04.29].

I guess after casting about for two years trying to find South Dakota’s “Next Big Thing,” Governor Noem has decided South Dakota’s prosperity depends on her cooking up lawsuits to pay her Sioux Falls lawyers their next big check.

But wait: what are these “contracts” and “permits” Noem is invoking? When Noem amped up her whining earlier this month, Lee Strubinger posted the May 2019 Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Interior and South Dakota pertaining to shooting off pyrotechnics at the Shrine of Democracy. That document says Interior and the state “agree to pursue” an “exercise of 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.” The MOA doesn’t say “We guarantee fireworks over Mount Rushmore every Fourth of July.” Interior’s language recognizes the Park Service’s full legal authority to evaluate the situation in the Black Hills, determine that we can’t shoot fireworks over a dry forest safely or responsibly, and call off the show. Those conditions were in place last year, and they remain in place now. Interior and the state can continue to pursue fireworks at Rushmore, but not this July.

The National Park Service itself said in 2019 that the MOA, unlike South Dakota’s Great Faces, is not carved in stone:

According to the NPS it is not etched in stone that the fireworks will occur.

“The agreement”, said Maureen McGee-Ballinger, chief of interpretation and education at Mount Rushmore, “is the first step in a long process. The National Park Service will be working with the state, land management agencies, various specialists in a variety of fields, and will be exercising our authority under state and federal law to explore safe and available options in regards to the proposal. So, it’s a proposal. This is just the beginning of the process to look at that” [Bill Gabbert, “Politicians Want to Resume Fireworks Displays over the Forest at Mount Rushmore,” Wildfire Today, 2019.05.09].

The MOA establishes no right to fireworks and certainly no claim that the Governor can win in court. But actual language and law be darned—if it gets her on TV and builds her brand, Kristi Noem will file those papers and tweet and Frank all she can about suing to preserve her God-given right to blow things up.

Remember: not holding a fireworks show means more people can spend the July 4 holiday at Mount Rushmore


  1. Donald Pay 2021-04-30 08:51

    Noem can save South Dakota taxpayers a little money on another frivolous lawsuit by just reading the MOA. It’s pretty clear, as you point out. But, you know, her ego won’t let her do the wise thing. So, she’ll funnel more money to some high-priced attorneys to get slapped down once again.

  2. Eve Fisher 2021-04-30 09:09

    Great – more of our tax dollars spent on feeding her out-of-state trash-eating base.

  3. bearcreekbat 2021-04-30 09:53

    Generally to be legally enforceable in court any purported contract requires some sort of “consideration” that actually benefits each party to the contract. What was the consideration given by Noem or the State that benefited the NPS in some otherwise unavailable manner? I saw no promise of payment, or promise by the State (i.e. consideration) to take steps or refrain from taking steps that could not otherwise been required by law or regulation for a fireworks permit, without the need for a contract, referenced in Cory’s report. Consideration necessary to make a leagally enforceable contract is generally defined as:

    n. 1) payment or money. 2) a vital element in the law of contracts, consideration is a benefit which must be bargained for between the parties, and is the essential reason for a party entering into a contract. Consideration must be of value (at least to the parties), and is exchanged for the performance or promise of performance by the other party (such performance itself is consideration). . . .,party%20entering%20into%20a%20contract.

    What value or benefit did the State promise to NPS that was not already required by law (i.e. that the NPS could not have required without a contract) to obtain a permit to conduct a fireworks display on NPS property on the 4th of July? Without showing a promise of “consideration” to NPS I don’t see how Noem has any legally enforceable claim premised on a purported contract.

  4. bearcreekbat 2021-04-30 11:06

    How do I confirm a subscription to comments if I don’t receive an email link? This has now happened more than once when I try to subscribe to future comments, including on this particular thread?

  5. John Dale 2021-04-30 11:40

    Governor’s office goes whiiiiiirrrrr….

    Fireworks go booooom.


    Grudz .. my other comments get lost in the ether. Unfortunately, you’ve missed a really good zinger .. this is objectionable in the least, but you should pursue torte if denied access to the witticisms emanating from my third eye.

  6. RST Tribal Member 2021-04-30 11:55

    America’s Governor lies, cheats, misleads, brags and plays golf… ops sorry that fool was replaced on January 20 after he rallied like fools to storm and damage the capital. America’s Governor seems to try to do everything 45 did/does except play golf. She is lucky he doesn’t order her to do that, as his commands, so far, are to show up at rallies and get ready to replace RINO Thune.

    So looking forward to summer 2022 to see how 45 will determine the political landscape in South Dakota. Republicans, it seems, turned over their morals to 45, their sense of independence to 45, their willingness to lead the state for the good of the people instead of 45.

  7. Mark Anderson 2021-04-30 14:54

    Oh I’m sure the would let kristi open her can of worms. The big black snake wouldn’t harm anyone

  8. mike from iowa 2021-05-01 15:09

    It was omn Fake Noize with Neil Cavuto and he never once challenged any statements she made on why fireworks were cancelled and her evident mis reading of memorandumb which Master wrote about previously.

    ps good to be back on line with most of you.

  9. o 2021-05-01 16:50

    A stronger case would be that the 2020 exception to allow the vanity fireworks for President Trump was the political manipulation of the system. That was the decision that flew in the face of health and safety regulation of both the Black Hills and potential attendees.

    I read a piece about how returning Native land back to tribes has been made easier. Maybe this fireworks tempest will all be moot if SD/the Feds don’t own the Black Hills anymore by July?

  10. Dicta 2021-05-01 17:10

    She knows she cant win, but that isnt the point. Just more meat for the base.

  11. mike from iowa 2021-05-01 19:26

    Like other magats, she is just making stuff up. Facts aren’t what interests magat’s base, red meat, the kind Biden did not ban, regardless of what Fake Noize reports, is what they want to hear. As long as it denigrates the opposition, they are all for it.

  12. Porter Lansing 2021-05-01 20:53

    Good one, MFI.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2021-05-01 21:04

    Well…the World’s Only Corn Palace is still available.

  14. bearcreekbat 2021-05-02 00:07


  15. Whitless 2021-05-02 09:43

    Paying substantial legal fees to pursue a meritless lawsuit is a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars. The primary motivation for her public messages and threatened lawsuit is political. Her campaign should be paying for any lawsuit. If she wants to shoot fireworks, pick a location that the state controls, e.g. a state park or the state capitol.

  16. o 2021-05-02 10:15

    Whitless, great suggestion to choose another location. I understand she has access to a beautiful, private backyard now.

  17. Tally Plume 2021-05-02 15:07

    This is nothing more than a taxpayers funded campaign rally!

Comments are closed.