South Dakota’s pitch to keep up July 4 celebration at Mt. Rushmore resurfaces at Haaland confirmation hearing

South Dakota is hoping to keep the newly revived July 4th celebration at Mount Rushmore going, and the state’s governor is trying to get the message to President Joe Biden’s nominee for Interior Secretary.

During Tuesday’s nomination hearing for Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland, Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas told Haaland that South Dakota Gov. — and Donald Trump ally — Kristi Noem reached out to him last night and said Haaland and President Joe Biden are invited to Mount Rushmore for the Fourth of July celebration.

Fireworks at Mount Rushmore had been discontinued in 2009 due to concerns about wildfire hazards in forests adjacent to the monument. In May 2019, Noem announced that the state and Interior Department had struck a deal to allow fireworks at Mount Rushmore beginning with the 2020 Independence Day celebration, which then-President Trump attended and was considered a coronavirus super spreader event. Noem had said advancements in pyrotechnics and a strengthened forest led to the decision to have the fireworks return to the site.

“I hope you all can continue that tradition,” Marshall said. “I think it’s great for America to celebrate our independence and what a great place to do that.”

“If the pandemic is over and we’re able to travel, I’ve never been to Mount Rushmore, and so I appreciate that,” Haaland replied.

Asked about Marshall’s comments, Ian Fury, the South Dakota governor’s communications director, told CNN, “Governor Noem spoke to several members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee regarding this last night.”

The Department of the Interior declined to comment.

Noem previously expressed interest in inviting Biden to the fireworks display during a press conference last month, saying, “Yes, absolutely, I’d love to have President Biden at Mount Rushmore on July third, with the fireworks as well.”

Trump boasted about the return of the fireworks display during a May appearance on the Dan Bongino podcast last year: “We’re getting them at the great monument, we’re getting them, I got fireworks, for 20 years or something it hasn’t been allowed for environmental reasons, you believe that one, it’s all stone. So I’m trying to say where’s the environmental reason? Anyway I got it approved so I’m going to go there on July 3rd, and they’re gonna have the big fireworks,” Trump said.

As part of her advocacy efforts urging the Biden administration to allow the celebrations to continue in her state, Noem sent letters Monday to members of the South Dakota delegation — Republicans Sen. John Thune, Sen. Mike Rounds, and Rep. Dusty Johnson — asking for their help in “sharing the importance of the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebrations to South Dakota and combatting efforts from those who wish to discontinue these celebrations permanently.”

In the letters, provided to CNN, Noem also wrote: “I am respectfully asking for your assistance in communicating the importance of this celebration throughout the confirmation process for the incoming Secretary of the Interior and in conversations with senior staff at the department.”


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