'The State of South Dakota is suffering from widespread drought conditions, low humidity, high wind, and high temperatures that create serious peril for our state,' Gov. Kristi Noem said in March.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) complained on Monday that the National Park Service had denied the state's request to hold a Fourth of July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, even though she had declared a fire emergency just a month earlier.
Noem filed suit on April 30 against Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the Biden administration after her request to put on a pyrotechnics show was denied. Fireworks displays had not been allowed at the monument from 2009 to 2020 due to concerns about fires and objections from Native tribes, though the Trump administration approved fireworks last year.
Noem, who has been discussed as a possible successor to Trump as the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2024, lashed out at the Park Service on Monday.
"There was no reason given as to why we can't host the fireworks events. It wasn't based on environmental issues, it wasn't based on staffing issues or fire danger issues, it was just because they didn't want us to have it," Noem said during a press conference.
The Park Service did, however, already provide its views on holding a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore this year.
Park Service Regional Director Herbert Frost sent a letter to the South Dakota tourism department in March denying its request to hold the event due to lingering health and safety concerns.
"Potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event," said Frost. "In addition, the park's many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial."
Frost also noted concerns about enforcing social distancing protocols at an Independence Day celebration at the monument.
South Dakota has experienced wildfires in the first quarter of 2021, including a fire in March that forced the evacuation of over 400 homes and the closure of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
And on March 30, Noem signed an executive order declaring, "The State of South Dakota is suffering from widespread drought conditions, low humidity, high wind, and high temperatures that create serious peril for our state ... The entirety of our state is suffering from abnormally dry, or moderate and severe drought conditions" and "resultant fires, worsened by these conditions, cause significant damage to infrastructure and cause unexpected costs."
Noem said in the declaration that the state has had to devote considerable resources to deal with "dangerous fire conditions" and that "firefighting resources are being depleted."
The order labels March 30 to June 1 a "fire incident period"; historically, according to the website Weather Atlas, July has been the warmest month at the site of the monument.
The Trump administration allowed a fireworks show in July 2020 despite the dangers of fires and transmission of the coronavirus. Trump appeared in person at the event.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.