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Noem Appeals Mt. Rushmore Fireworks Denial

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South Dakota Department of Tourism

In early June a federal judge upheld the denial of a permit for a state fireworks display at Mount Rushmore on the Fourth of July. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is now challenging that order. 

To pave the way for an appeal to the Eighth Circuit, Noem asked Federal Judge Roberto Lange to convert his ruling on a preliminary injunction to a final judgment. Lange did that, earlier this week, and the next day Noem filed a notice of intent to appeal. 

In his order granting the state’s request for a final judgment, Judge Roberto Lange notes that there appears to be nothing left for his court to do with this case. The Fourth of July has come and gone, and so the state’s challenge of the feds’ denial of a permit for fireworks at Mount Rushmore in 2021 is now moot.

But the state says it intends to apply for a fireworks permit every year, and there are two issues that will continue to come into play: does the National Parks Service have constitutional authority to deny the permit, and was the denial this year “arbitrary and capricious.”

Judge Lange addressed those issues in his June 2 order and found in favor of the defendants: U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, and directors of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. Also named as defendant intervenors are the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and its Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Steve Vance.

Judge Lange agrees with the state that no issues of material fact remain, and so there’s nothing for the trial court to decide. But there is at least one question of law remaining in dispute: whether Congress and the Interior Department unconstitutionally gave lawmaking authority to the National Parks Service.

To accommodate that appeal-able issue, Judge Lange converted his order denying the state’s motion for a preliminary injunction and entered a final judgment for the defendants, thereby dismissing the case. This move allows plaintiffs to appeal the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.