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Arguments set in Mount Rushmore fireworks appeal

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Department of the Interior

Oral arguments have been set in South Dakota’s fight to get a federal permit to shoot off fireworks at Mount Rushmore. The National Park Service denied the state’s application for a permit in 2021. Governor Kristi Noem is now trying to get a permit for Independence Day observances in 2022.

When the state was denied a permit for fireworks at Mount Rushmore in 2021, Governor Kristi Noem sued in federal court.

But Federal Judge Roberto Lange upheld the denial, citing the National Park Service’s concerns: the fireworks show would draw up to 10,000 people during a pandemic, and the increased traffic might damage new construction at Mount Rushmore . The exploding fireworks could pollute water sources or spark forest fires around the monument.

Lange also noted that permitting fireworks might further damage the fragile relationship between indigenous people and the federal government.

The state appealed Lange’s judgment to the Eighth Circuit and asked for an expedited hearing, so the case can be decided before the park service considers a permit for 2022. The appellate court complied with that request.

Oral arguments are set before a three-judge panel in St. Louis on Wednesday, Jan. 12. Each side has 15 minutes to make its case.

Defendants are Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and the National Park Service, whose new director, Charles Sams, was sworn in on Dec. 16.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and its Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Steve Vance, are intervenor defendants.

The state is joined by 16 other states, and the feds and the tribe are joined by the National Parks Conservation Association.

All attorneys presenting in-person oral arguments must submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.