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.