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Public Meetings Scheduled On Mount Rushmore Fireworks Assessment

South Dakota Tourism

The publication of a draft environmental assessment and the scheduling of public meetings has brought the National Park Service another step closer to bringing fireworks back to Mount Rushmore this July 3. 

In a press release Friday, Interior Department Assistant Secretary Rob Wallace said, “I share in President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt’s commitment to bringing back fireworks to this iconic American landmark. We’re excited to continue working with the community and its leaders as we plan this celebration of our nation’s birth.” 

It’s been 11 years since the last Independence Day-themed fireworks show at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The Park Service ended the shows because the fireworks were starting small wildfires, polluting water and littering the area with debris from exploded fireworks shells. 

Gov. Kristi Noem wants the fireworks back. Besides being patriotic, the shows are considered valuable advertising for South Dakota tourism.  

Noem enlisted President Trump’s support for a show this year, and he has publicly said the show will happen. Federal law requires an environmental assessment first.  

The Park Service published a draft environmental assessment Friday. It acknowledges that past fireworks shows from 1998 to 2009 at Mount Rushmore ignited 21 small fires in the forest around the mountain. But the assessment says those fires were put out quickly by firefighters staged in the area. 

The assessment says the wildfire risk can be lessened before this summer’s show by thinning trees and underbrush, and by doing controlled burns to reduce the amount of natural wildfire fuel around the mountain. The assessment says, “A fireworks display in 2020 would contribute minimally to wildfire risk.” 

The assessment acknowledges that a chemical in fireworks, perchlorate, is polluting Mount Rushmore’s drinking-water wells. But the current pollution levels are not considered a threat to public health. The assessment says fireworks could add more pollution to the water, and monitoring will be conducted. 

Regarding debris from exploded fireworks shells, the assessment acknowledges that the rugged topography around the mountain makes it impossible to pick everything up. 

Comments about the assessment can be submitted online until March 30 at go.nps.gov/RushmoreFireworks. Public meetings about the assessment will be at:

  • 6 p.m. March 9 at the Outdoor Campus in Rapid City.
  • 6 p.m. March 10 at the Courthouse Annex in Custer.
  • 4 p.m. March 11 in the Keystone Community Center. 

The Park Service has already begun consultation with Native American tribes that have spiritual and treaty ties to the Black Hills. The assessment says all of those tribes object to the fireworks show and consider it inappropriate. 

The 15-30 minute fireworks show will be conducted by a private vendor. State government will hire the vendor and has already published a request for proposals

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