Judge rules against Noem in fireworks lawsuit; Noem vows to appeal for 2022

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A federal court has ruled there will be no Fourth of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore.

Judge Roberto A. Lange said today in the ruling that while fireworks on July 3 “at first blush” seems like a good idea, the “Court is not called upon to determine whether such a fireworks display is a good idea.”

In short, Lange said that the state did not meet requirements for him to rule in Noem and the state’s favor.

In a post on her Governor’s Twitter Account, Noem said “The Biden Administration cancelled South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration on completely arbitrary grounds. I am disappointed the court gave cover to this unlawful action with today’s decision.”

And Noem promised to continue to pursue fireworks. “…rest assured the fight is not over.” Noem said in the Twitter post that her legal team will appeal in the pursuit of fireworks in 2022.

Fireworks returned to Mount Rushmore last year for the first time since 2009. The July 3 event was attended by President Donald Trump.

South Dakota’s lawsuit alleged that the National Park Service’s denial of 4th of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Lange said in the ruling “this Court cannot say that NPS’s decision was arbitrary and capricious
under (law).”

The NPS provided five reasons for rejecting the permit and those were outlined in the court’s ruling.

One of the reasons was health and safety risks because of the coronavirus. Lange said those risks have decreased since 2020 and if that was the only reason for the rejection, the court may have been tempted to remand the NPS decision because the coronavirus situation has improved since 2020.

The other four reasons for rejection were sound, according to Lange’s ruling.

Those reasons were concerns about eroding relationships with indigenous tribal groups, environmental and wildfire risks, disruption of enjoyment but the public as a whole at Mount Rushmore and disruption of construction at the Memorial.

The lawsuit also said by granting the fireworks permit in 2020, the NPS changed a policy so it should grant a permit in 2021. Lange said that granting a permit in 2020 after several years of denying permits did not qualify as a change in policy.

Lange also wrote “This Court fully understands the State’s position and why this suit was brought, but under governing law, the State is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claims and has not met the requirements for the sort of mandatory injunction or writ of mandamus sought. For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that the State’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Doc. 3, is denied.”

Lange said today in his ruling that “Ultimately, there are strong arguments in both directions as to the balance of harms, and the public interest in the short-term appears to lie with having the fireworks display, whereas more long-term interests militate against it at least for this year.”

Noem filed the lawsuit after the National Park Service rejected the state request for July 4th fireworks at the national monument.

“Governor Noem is going to do everything in her ability to ensure that we can celebrate America’s birthday with fireworks at Mount Rushmore,” said Ian Fury, Noem’s communications director said after the National Park Service in March rejected South Dakota’s request for July 4 fireworks at the national memorial.

Several other states joined the lawsuit.

NPS regional director Herbert Frost said in a letter to South Dakota that the potential risks to the park were still being evaluated from 2020 and that tribal partners oppose fireworks at Mount Rushmore were reasons, along with COVID-19 for rejecting the state’s request, the Hill reported.

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