South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sued the Biden administration because it wont let her hold a July 4 fireworks show at Mount Rushmore

·3 min read
Trump Mount Rushmore
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend Independence Day events at Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, July 3, 2020. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday announced a lawsuit against the US Department of Interior because it refused the state's request to issue a permit for an Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore.

"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, a Republican in her first term, said in a Friday press release.

"Unfortunately, the new administration departed from precedent and reneged on this agreement without any meaningful explanation," she continued. "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."

Last year, former President Donald Trump addressed a crowd at an Independence Day event on the evening of July 3 during the height of his failed campaign for reelection. Last year's event came amid a surge of coronavirus cases, as The New York Times reported at the time.

In April, Noem wrote President Joe Biden a letter, asking him to direct officials at the DOI to issue the permit for the celebration. In her letter, Noem noted that Biden previously said Americans would be able to gather on Independence Day this year, though the president's remarks did not reference large-scale gatherings, but instead referred to small, "backyard" gatherings.

"That doesn't mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together," Biden said on March 11.

Noem filed her lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota Central Division. It names Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks, the director of operations of the National Park Service; and the National Park Service director of the Midwest Region.

Herbert Frost, the NPS director for the region, denied the state's request in March.

"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," Frost wrote in a letter explaining his decision. "In addition, the park's many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial."

He continued: "These factors, compiled with the COVID-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site."

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