PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange has decided he will aim to have a choice made by June 2 on whether to require the U.S. Department of Interior to reverse itself and issue a permit to the State of South Dakota for July 4 fireworks at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
In his May 20 order allowing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to intervene, the federal judge stated, “To be clear, this case is not a dispute between the State and Lakota Tribes over the merit
of fireworks at Mount Rushmore for Independence Day weekend or the ramifications of the Tribal
position that all of the Black Hills are a central spiritual and cultural location.
“This case has just two central claims to it: (1) whether the DOI acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying the requested permit, and the Intervenors’ concerns were one factor in that denial; and (2) whether Congress unconstitutionally delegated legislative power to the National Parks Service.”
The tribal government and the tribe’s historic preservation officer, Steve Vance, filed a motion to intervene on May 13, the same day that Acting U.S. Attorney Dennis Holmes filed the federal government’s response to the state government’s lawsuit.
“The Tribe and Vance contend that they will suffer the following three injuries if this Court
grants a preliminary injunction to require the DOI to issue the requested permit: (I) imposition of
a substantial burden on the Tribe’s and its individual members’ religious practices in violation of
the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb; (2) a violation of the Tribe’s
and its individual members’ rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment; and
(3) violation of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by forcing the
federal defendants to illegally bypass evaluation of historic properties in the Black Hills,” the federal judge wrote.
Among the defenses raised by the federal government are that its employees and agents “acted with due care and diligence at all relevant times,” the state government waited too long to challenge the March 11, 2021, permit-denial letter, and the state government is “asking the court to enjoin (the National Park Service) from taking an action that it has already taken, thus the court cannot order relief through an injunction that would redress the injury.”
Among the defenses raised by the lawyers representing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is that Congress gave the Department of Interior authority for permitting decisions. “The Tribe and Mr. Vance agree strongly with the State regarding the significant discretion Congress granted to the Secretary of the Interior in the statutes authorizing the DOI to issue special use permits,” the lawyers for the tribe said.
Governor Kristi Noem in the lawsuit wants the federal judge to order the federal government to issue a permit for the fireworks, as it did last year when she hosted President Donald Trump on the night of July 3 for an invitation-only event. She also wants the judge to declare unconstitutional the federal laws granting the federal department permitting authority because those laws lack “an intelligible principle to guide DOI’s issuance of regulations that govern that authority.”