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Court dismisses Noem's Rushmore fireworks appeal

Travel South Dakota

The federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is dismissing an appeal by Gov. Kristi Noem for a fireworks permit at Mount Rushmore.

The lawsuit is over the Department of Interior and National Park Service permit denials for Independence Day celebrations in 2021.

The court found the state did not demonstrate that a decision on the court’s part would affect future permitting decisions. That’s because permitting decisions are made based on conditions of each year.

It says a ruling on a 2021 permit decision is moot.

The state also challenged the authority of the Interior Department and Park Service over the permitting process for fireworks shows at Mount Rushmore.

The court says doing away with the permitting process will only make it harder, not easier, for South Dakota to remedy its claimed injury.

The governor's office criticized the ruling and the Biden administration for not approving the permit.

In a statement, the governor's office said the court “should have ruled on the merits to set a standard for future fireworks celebrations.”

In 2020, Noem hosted then-President Donald Trump for fireworks at the mountain carving. The Trump administration's approval of the fireworks display was the first time fireworks had been allowed there in more than a decade.

The previously annual shows had been canceled over concerns about wildfires, water pollution from chemicals in the fireworks, litter from fireworks debris, and objections from Native American tribes who consider the Black Hills a sacred place in their traditional spirituality.

The governor’s office says they’ve submitted an application for a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore in 2023.

"The National Park Service should grant that application immediately," the Governor's Office said in a statement.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.