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Fireworks at Mount Rushmore under appeal at Eighth Circuit

SD Department of Tourism

The State of South Dakota is appealing the denial of a permit for a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. The National Park Service under the Trump administration approved a permit for 2020, but the next administration denied a 2021 permit.

The state sued in federal district court, and when that judge ruled in favor of the National Park Service, the state filed with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. That case is pending.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump came to the Black Hills for an Independence Day fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. The National Park Service granted a permit for the show despite environmental and tribal concerns.

The following year, under the Biden administration, the state’s application for a fireworks permit was denied.

Governor Kristi Noem turned to a South Dakota Federal District Court, but Judge Roberto Lange denied her request for a preliminary injunction. He concluded that the National Park Service and other federal agencies, as well as tribes, had legitimate concerns, including threats of wildfires, water pollution, and the spread of covid-19 in a crowd of up to 10,000 people.

Noem then appealed that decision.

In briefs filed with the Eighth Circuit, the U.S. Department of Justice represents the defendants, including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and directors of the federal and regional National Park Service.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and its Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Steve Vance, have joined as defendant intervenors.

The defendants have asked the Eighth Circuit to dismiss the case as moot since the application at issue is for an event date that has come and gone.

But Noem said in a September news release that she has applied for a 2022 fireworks permit. She signed a memorandum of agreement in 2019, with then-Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, to work toward reinstating Fourth of July fireworks events at Mount Rushmore every year.

The Eighth Circuit will consider whether to hear the appeal and if yes, whether to hold oral arguments.

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