Ruling in Mt. Rushmore fireworks case may be reached today

Published: Jun. 2, 2021 at 10:01 AM MDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN) - A contentious legal battle between Governor Kristi Noem, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe over the blocking of Fourth of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore may reach a ruling today.

Chief Judge Roberto Lange, the federal judge who is presiding over the case, previously indicated that he would like to see a decision on the matter arrived upon by June 2nd of this year. Lange indicated that by today he hopes to reach a ruling in Noem vs. Haaland, on whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction that would force the Park Service to allow the fireworks this summer.

Last Friday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced that he would be joining 16 other state Attorneys General in their filing of a brief in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota that supports the lawsuit brought by Governor Kristi Noem against the U.S. Department of Interior. “The Fourth of July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore cannot lawfully be blocked by a federal agency’s ‘erratic decision-making,” said Schmidt.

In the Noem vs. Haaland case, Governor Noem argues that the state of South Dakota had previously reached a multi-year agreement with the Department of Interior, and believes that the Biden Administration should uphold that agreement.

The lawsuit asks the court to block the federal agency’s decision to deny a permit for fireworks on July 3rd, and to ultimately allow for the event to move forward as planned for 2021.

“Given the importance of the Fourth of July holiday and the special role of Mount Rushmore as a national monument, states have an interest in seeing the fireworks display take place again this year,” Schmidt and the other Attorneys General wrote. “But in rejecting South Dakota’s permit, the Department of the Interior offered only the flimsiest of rationales, unsupported by any evidence or reasoned explanation.”

In denying South Dakota’s permit earlier this year, the Department of Interior raised concerns about crowds at the event during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the environmental impact of the fireworks on water quality and fire risk. Currently, the Black Hills are in a drought.

Following the preliminary filing of the lawsuit, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe announced they would be joining legal arguments against Noem and the state of South Dakota. Representatives from the tribe say that they were not consulted in regards to the fireworks display, which the Noem administration says is false.

The attorneys general who joined the brief in support of Governor Noem include a number of high-profile names, including Ken Paxton of Texas, and Daniel Cameron of Kentucky.

Notably missing from the brief is South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who is still under investigation for his involvement in a September 2020 accident where he struck and killed Joe Boever of Highmore.

Noem took to Twitter to react to the brief Friday evening. “Derek Schmidt and 16 other Attorneys General are helping us fight the Biden Administration’s arbitrary and unlawful decision to block our Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration,” Noem said.

A conclusion to this controversial legal dispute may put the issue to rest by as soon as today. We will update this story as more information becomes available.

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