In a result that may not surprise those who have followed the issue of fireworks over Mount Rushmore, the National Park Service (NPS) announced today the agency will again allow fireworks to be exploded over the sculpture for July 4.
During the 30-day period that ended March 30, 2020 during which the public was allowed to express their opinion about about the proposal in the Environmental Assessment, 700 comments were submitted. The NPS said, “all comments were reviewed, and substantive comments were responded to by subject matter experts.”
My main concerns with restoring fireworks which had been used over the Memorial 11 times between 1998 and 2009 revolved around three primary issues:
During those 11 events 20 documented wildfires were ignited by the fireworks in the middle of the wildfire season.
2. Carcinogens in the water
In 2016 the U.S. Geological Survey discovered that the ground and surface water at Mount Rushmore are contaminated with perchlorate, a carcinogen which is a component of rocket fuels, fireworks, and explosives. They determined that the chemical came from the fireworks over the 12-year period during which they were used.
The trash dropped by the exploding shells onto the Monument and the forest can never be completely picked up. Left on the ground are unexploded shells, wadding, plastic, ash, pieces of the devices, and paper; stuff that can never be totally removed in the very steep, rocky, rugged terrain.
On at least two occasions President Trump said fireworks were going to be restored at Mount Rushmore long before the Environmental Assessment process was finished, on May 7, 2019 and December 18, 2019. This could lead a cynical person to think it was a foregone conclusion and the Environmental Assessment was a sham.
In a statement from the NPS released today, the Secretary of the Interior and the Governor of South Dakota both praised the fireworks:
“President Trump and I believe that our nation’s founding should be celebrated with the same Pomp and Parade that John Adams described in 1776, and having a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore once again will be an incredible spectacle for the American people to enjoy,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.
“There is no better place to celebrate America’s birthday than Mount Rushmore,” said South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. “The majestic figures of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln provide a terrific backdrop for the fireworks, and we appreciate all the work President Trump and his team at the Department of the Interior have done to make this celebration possible again for the country.”
Prior to the event, the NPS said, they will work with partner agencies, including the state of South Dakota, local communities, the South Dakota Highway Patrol, and the fireworks contractor and staff, to develop the following:
- A plan to address event traffic control, visitor management, and emergency response.
- A plan for event staging and demobilization activities.
- A wildland fire response plan.
- A Unified Command incident management team and a Go/No-Go checklist.
Similar events could be permitted in future years if conditions remain the same and impacts are as described in the EA, according to the NPS.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Al. Typos or errors, report them HERE.