A South Dakota federal judge has further denied Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s request for a permit allowing fireworks over Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day, The Hill reported Wednesday.
President Joe Biden's administration initially denied Noem’s permit request to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and respect for Native American tribes as reasons.
“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,” wrote Herbert Frost, National Park Service regional director, at the time the denial was issued. “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 safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site.”
Noem sued to appeal the denial.
U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange, an appointee of President Barack Obama, issued the 36-page decision, which denied preliminary judgment to Noem based on the unlikelihood of her prevailing in her suit against federal officials, according to the report.
“This Court fully understands the State's position and why this suit was brought,” Lange’s decision read. “But under governing law, the State is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claims and has not met the requirements for interim legal relief.”
Lange said in his decision that the reasons cited by the Biden administration were not "arbitrary and capricious."
Noem said she would appeal the decision.
"I am disappointed that the court gave cover to this unlawful action with today’s decision. But rest assured, this fight is not over," Noem said.
"My legal team will appeal this incorrect decision so that we can return the Fireworks Celebration to Mount Rushmore and celebrate our nation’s birthday at America’s Shrine to Democracy for next year and in the future,” Noem said in a statement following the ruling.
Last year, President Donald Trump held a national celebration at the monument for the first time since 2009, when the celebration was paused due to concerns about wildfires, CNN reported at the time.
The gathering was criticized for the lack of masks and social distancing amid the pandemic.
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