8th Circuit Court denies Noem’s appeal for fireworks

Fireworks returned to Mount Rushmore after a decade hiatus in July of 2020.
Fireworks returned to Mount Rushmore after a decade hiatus in July of 2020.(South Dakota Dept. of Tourism)
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 1:14 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Gov. Noem’s move to sue the National Park Service for denying her request to shoot fireworks on July 4, 2021, was declared an issue of the past by the federal court.

Every year since former President Trump’s fiery speech at Mount Rushmore 2020 was accompanied by a fireworks display, Gov. Noem has applied for and been denied a permit to shoot fireworks on the National Park’s land.

Trump’s fireworks display took place after a decade-long hiatus, and the National Park Service said the 2020 display “[did] not mean an automatic renewal of the event in the future.” Since then, fireworks have not been allowed in the state park due to a variety of issues that are relevant to each year. Among those concerns are environmental factors, fire hazards, water contamination, visitor safety, and objections from local Native American tribes.

The repeated denial led Noem to sue the agency claiming the “decision itself was arbitrary and capricious,” also claiming it “violates the nondelegation doctrine.”

The court documents (available below) claimed the decisions made by the National Park Service are not arbitrary, since each year the fireworks permit was denied with good reason. The park has the authority to deny any permits since it is the defender of its own land- the South Dakota government does not own it.

Furthermore, Noem was suing for the 2021 permit denial, which is a date that has already passed, so the court decided nothing can be done about it, it’s a “moot issue.”

“Time machines aside, to now order the Park Service to reconsider its decision to deny a permit for an event more than a year in the past would be the very definition of “[in]effectual relief,” the court documents read. “No matter what we decide, South Dakota cannot hold the event.”

South Dakota argued it was not a moot point since the deny-and-sue cycle is likely to happen again, which the court responded by saying, even though that may be the case, any future reasons the permit may be denied will likely be reasonable and different every time.

“Nobody has a right to shoot off fireworks on someone else’s land, whether it be a neighbor; an area business; or as is the case here, a national park,” the court documents explained. “[T]he [g]overnment has, with respect to its own lands, the rights of an ordinary proprietor, to maintain its possession and to prosecute trespassers.”

The court argued that taking away the permit process would inevitably make it harder for South Dakota to ever legally shoot fireworks in a national park.

Gov. Noem’s response to the federal court’s decision

“President Biden should want to celebrate America’s birthday in a unifying way with fireworks at Mount Rushmore. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration ran out the clock, blocking both our celebration and any serious judicial review,” said Noem. “The Court should have ruled on the merits to set a standard for future fireworks celebrations; we disagree that a ruling from the Court would constitute an ‘advisory opinion.’ We have already submitted our permit application for the 2023 Mount Rushmore Fireworks. The National Park Service should grant that application immediately.”

South Dakota’s appeal was supported by 16 other states, including Kansas, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

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