South Dakota governor sues Biden administration over Mount Rushmore fireworks

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Fireworks light the sky at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Friday, July 3, 2020, near Keystone, S.D., after President Donald Trump spoke. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

PIERRE, S.D. (KCAU) – South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem filed a lawsuit Friday against officials in the President Joe Biden’s administration over the cancellation of the fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore.

National Park Service Regional Director Herbert Frost said in a letter to the state in March that the NPS denied a permit for the fireworks this year, citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, tribal opposition and the environment.

The lawsuit names Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior; Shannon Estenox, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks; Shawn Benge, acting director and deputy director of Operation of the National Park Service, and Herbert Frost, National Park Service director of the Midwest region. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota Central Division.

A release from the governor’s office said that Noem previously asked Biden a couple of weeks ago to uphold the agreement between the National Parks Service and the state of South Dakota for the Mount Rushmore fireworks celebration. The release also said that Noem showed the work that the state and others did to ensure the 2020 celebration was done safely and responsibly.

“After telling us they’d ‘circle back,’ the Biden administration has not responded to our request to uphold the Memorandum of Agreement between the State of South Dakota and the National Parks Service (NPS) to host a safe and responsible national celebration and fireworks show,” Noem said.

Noem added that the officials have reneged on this agreement without any meaningful explanation.

“We are asking the court to enjoin the Department of Interior’s (DOI) denial of the fireworks permit and order it to issue a permit for the event expeditiously,” continued Noem.

State tourism officials believe the 2020 fireworks celebration generated $2 million in spending in the state.

A report by Nexstar-affiliate KELO in Sioux Falls found that the cost of the 2020 celebration totaled at least $1.5 million. Noem used money from the Future Fund, a tax that businesses pay for economic development, KELO said. It was created in 1987 by taking a portion of what businesses paid for unemployment tax and diverting it to a new purpose.

The full complaint can be read below or here.

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