South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem filed suit against the Biden administration on Friday for canceling the Mount Rushmore Independence Day fireworks display, demanding the court “expeditiously” issue a permit for the event to take place.
“Mount Rushmore is the very best place to celebrate America’s birthday and all that makes our country special,” Noem wrote. “After telling us they’d ‘circle back,’ the Biden Administration has not responded to our request to uphold the Memorandum Agreement between the State of South Dakota and the National Parks Service to host a safe and responsible national celebration and fireworks show.”
At issue is a legal memorandum between the government of South Dakota and the National Park Service giving the state permission to hold the event on Park grounds. By canceling the event the administration “departed from longstanding precedent and reneged on this agreement without any meaningful explanation.”
The National Parks Service (NPS) notified South Dakota of its decision to ban the fireworks display last month, citing concerns about COVID-19, tribal objections and alleged danger to the park itself.
NPS Regional Director Herbert Frost wrote to South Dakota’s tourism office in March citing “potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration,” saying that they “continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event.”
Frost added, “In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial.”
Well, if the Native Americans don’t want fireworks, that settles it then? What does the support or opposition of one interest group have to do with public health concerns?
Noem says that the fireworks event last year did not lead to a single case of Covid. The state was unable to track a single case to the Independence Day fireworks.
The state said as much in the suit.
Noem’s lawsuit, first reported by Fox News, characterized that letter as containing “a patchwork of vague and speculative purported concerns.”
“The letter made no attempt to quantify or otherwise characterize the risk level for this year’s planned event or how it differed from the risk level for the exact same event last year, which [the Interior Department] approved,” it said.
Critics of the department’s move have also pointed to March remarks by President Biden in which he said he hoped to get the country closer to normal by July 4.
Last year, the nation was under a near-total lockdown on July 4 and the event was held safely. This year, the country will be fully open for business, and most of those who want to be vaccinated will be vaccinated. It’s hard not to see the vindictiveness in the administration’s refusal to allow a July 4th celebration at Mount Rushmore.