Kristi Noem, a Republican, says the Biden administration denied her state’s permit request “without meaningful explanation” after Trump officials had agreed to allow fireworks at the national monument.
(CN) — Incensed that the National Park Service denied her request for an Independence Day fireworks display over Mount Rushmore this year, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem filed a federal lawsuit Friday to bring back the show.
Last year marked the first time in a decade that the monument saw such an event, which was indefinitely canceled in 2010 due to the risk of wildfires; a local infestation of pine beetles had killed many trees in the area, increasing the likelihood of a conflagration.
But 2020 saw the event’s return, with then-President Donald Trump in attendance. According to Noem, the celebration went off without a hitch.
“State and Memorial employees dutifully ensured that all safety measures were properly in place, and the event occurred without incident — as it always has,” Noem said in her complaint, which lists officials from the National Park Service and Department of the Interior as defendants.
She alleges that the Department of the Interior signed a 2019 memorandum agreeing to bring back the show “beginning in the year 2020.”
So when the state sought to renew its permit with the Department of the Interior this year, it assumed it would be approved. But the National Park Service denied the request in March.
“Potential risks to the park itself and to the safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks show continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event,” explained NPS regional director Herbert Frost explained to South Dakota’s tourism secretary at the time. “In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the memorial. These factors, compiled with the Covid-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks show to be held at this site.”
Noem sent a letter to President Joe Biden on April 13 asking that he abide by the agreement signed by his predecessor’s administration.
In a statement Friday, she said Biden’s office told her it would “circle back” but never did anything further.
“Mount Rushmore is the very best place to celebrate America’s birthday and all that makes our country special,” Noem said. “Unfortunately, the new administration departed from precedent and reneged on this agreement without any meaningful explanation. We are asking the court to enjoin the Department of Interior’s … denial of the fireworks permit and order it to issue a permit for the event expeditiously.”
The complaint says there should be no public health reason to cancel the outdoor show, since Covid-19 vaccination numbers will continue to rise between now and July 4.