The National Park Service has denied a request from the State of South Dakota to hold a July 4 fireworks display at Mount Rushmore this year.
Last year under pressure from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and former President Trump, fireworks were shot from the heads of the four presidents on the sculpture for the first time since 2009. In the interim they had been banned for having started 27 fires, left carcinogens in the water, and the trash dropped by the exploding shells onto the Monument and the forest can never be completely picked up. Fireworks were exploded over the sculpture and the Ponderosa pine forest 11 times between 1998 and 2009.
NPS Regional Director Herbert Frost wrote in a letter to the head of the state’s tourism department, first reported by The Hill Friday, that the NPS is “unable to grant a request to have fireworks at the Memorial.”
“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 addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial.”
“These factors, compiled with the COVID-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site,” he added.
Frost noted that although progress is being made in fighting the pandemic, the situation is still “dynamic” and said it is “only prudent to make plans based on the best available science and public health guidance available today.”
In a joint statement, three members of Congress, Representative Dusty Johnson, Senator John Thune, and Senator Mike Rounds said,
Let’s be clear, this decision is political, not evidence-based. President Biden just said himself that Americans can safely gather by July 4 – what’s changed in a day? Last year millions watched the celebration in awe, and it’s a shame the administration is denying Americans that opportunity this year.
On March 11 in his address to the nation President Biden said,
Because here’s the point, if we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.
According to Johns Hopkins University, of all the U.S. states, as of March 14, 2021 South Dakota has the third-highest number of positive COVID-19 cases per capita, and the sixth-lowest rate of testing per capita. The state has never implemented a mask mandate.
From Forbes, March 13, 2021:
Four days before the fireworks celebration in 2020, a local wildfire update reported that multiple fires had affected nearly 16,000 acres in the Black Hills, near Mount Rushmore. But wildfire experts’ objections to the 2020 celebration went unheeded.
“Burning debris, the burning embers and unexploded shells fall into a ponderosa pine forest and ponderosa pine is extremely flammable,” Bill Gabbert, former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore, told the Argus Leader last year. “Shooting fireworks over a ponderosa pine forest, or any flammable vegetation, is ill advised and should not be done. Period.”
In a break from what had been the standard practice for decades, when the Mine Draw Fire broke out six miles from Mount Rushmore just days before the fireworks were exploded in 2020, Governor Kristi Noem’s office took control of all official information about the fire, shutting down the fire professionals who had always provided information to the public and the media as part of their regular jobs.