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Noem asks South Dakota delegation to fight for Mount Rushmore fireworks celebration

Fireworks light the sky at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Friday, July 3, 2020, near...
Fireworks light the sky at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Friday, July 3, 2020, near Keystone, S.D., after President Donald Trump spoke. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (KOTA)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:02 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Fireworks at Mount Rushmore could be called off by President Joe Biden’s incoming Secretary of the Interior, but South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem isn’t going down without a fight.

In a letter sent to Sen. Thune, Sen. Rounds, and Rep. Johnson, Gov. Noem lays out why the fireworks celebrations are important to the state. Gov. Noem highlights reasons for continuing fireworks displays, including visitor spending.

According to Noem, visitors spent $2 million in South Dakota as a result of the fireworks celebration on July 3, 2020. The spending resulted in $160,000 in tax revenues for state and local governments. Noem also says Google searches for “Mount Rushmore” reached an all-time high with web traffic for the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s website increased 872% from the previous year.

“This summer’s event on July 3 carried advertising value of more than $22 million, according to the most conservative estimates and several broadcast programs experienced historic ratings due to the event,” Noem writes in her letters to Sen. John Thune, Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Dusty Johnson.

Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico will be President Joe Biden’s Interior Secretary. Her confirmation hearing by the Senate happens Tuesday.

Haaland, who will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary if confirmed.

July 3, 2020, was the first time in more than decade fireworks happened at the National Monument. Because of the risk of wildfire in the Black Hills, the park service stopped hosting fireworks in 2009. At the time, a mountain pine beetle infestation killed thousands of trees. The infestation was considered to be done in 2016.

In the letter, Noem addresses critiques about fire danger.

“Critics suggest that this event poses safety risks to the park and the surrounding areas--concerns that I take very seriously,” Noem wrote. “When weather conditions have not been favorable to the fireworks celebration, we have retained from holding the event.”

Read the full letter below:

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