Kristi Noem Says White House Did Not Respond to Request for Mount Rushmore Fireworks, Prompting Lawsuit

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior after requests for permission to hold a Fourth of July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore were denied, Noem announced Friday, the Associated Press reported.

The National Park Service rejected the state's application due to safety concerns and objections from local Native American tribes. Noem's suit claims that the decision was "arbitrary and capricious" and violated the powers granted to the agency in the Constitution.

Noem added that the White House did not respond to several requests to host a fireworks show at the tourist attraction.

"Mount Rushmore is the very best place to celebrate America's birthday and all that makes our country special," Noem said in a statement. "After telling us they'd 'circle back,' the Biden administration has not responded to our request to uphold the Memorandum of Agreement ... to host a safe and responsible national celebration and fireworks show."

Last year, the state brought back the event after a 10-year hiatus. South Dakota made an agreement with the Trump administration and the Department of the Interior to reinstate the pyrotechnic display in 2021.

The event drew national attention when former President Donald Trump joined Noem on July 3 to give a fiery speech.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Krisi Noem
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior after requests for permission to hold a Fourth of July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore were denied. Above, Noem addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency on February 27, 2021, in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Mount Rushmore is a huge tourism draw for the state, but it has also been a source of tension between the state and local Lakota tribes. Local activists have called for the monument to be returned to tribal control, pointing out the surrounding Black Hills were taken from the tribes in violation of treaties.

Last year's event drew concerns about wildfires set off by the fireworks, as well as protests from Lakota activists. Fireworks were canceled after 2009 because of fire danger from a pine beetle infestation.

Noem's attorneys argue in the lawsuit that the surrounding forest has sufficiently recovered from the pine beetle infestation. But last month the park service had to close the monument for several days as firefighters battled wildfires within the park grounds. The wildfires in part prompted Noem to declare a state of emergency until June, citing "widespread drought conditions, low humidity, high wind and high temperatures that create serious peril for our state."

But the governor in court filings invoked a spirit of patriotism to argue the show should go on, quoting former presidents from John Adams to George H.W. Bush.

The governor, closely allied with Trump, has headlined conservative events around the nation and is considered to be a potential name on the 2024 GOP presidential ticket. Last year's Mount Rushmore event gave Noem an opportunity to enter Trump's orbit as she joined him on the flight back to Washington.

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Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. AP Photo/AP Photo