Fireworks returning to Mount Rushmore

Gray Hughes

The National Park Service (NPS) announced Tuesday the return of Independence Day fireworks to Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

The fireworks return after an 11-year absence.


“There is no better place to celebrate America’s birthday than Mount Rushmore,” said South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem in a release. “The majestic figures of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln provide a terrific backdrop for the fireworks, and we appreciate all the work (President Donald Trump) and his team at the Department of the Interior have done to make this celebration possible again for the country.”


The environmental assessment analyzed two alternatives. Under the first alternative, the memorial would host Independence Day fireworks and other performances on the evening of July 3.


Following the environmental assessment conducted earlier in the year, the NPS issued a finding of no significant impact, which will allow for the Independence Day fireworks celebration to happen based on the recommended alternative, which protects the memorial, the environment and park visitors.


While going forward at this point, the event will be subject to appropriate weather, security, wildland fire conditions and in accordance with Trump’s Opening Up America Again guidelines.


The public’s health and safety is of the utmost importance, the release reads, and therefore conditions in the permit issued to the state will allow for modifications to the event in accordance with all national, state and local health safety guidelines.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in the release that he and Trump believe the Independence Day celebration should be celebrated with “the same pomp and parade” that John Adams described in 1776.


“And having a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore once again will be an incredible spectacle for the American people to enjoy,” he added.


Before the fireworks, the NPS will work with partner agencies — which includes the state of South Dakota, local communities, the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the fireworks contractor and staff — to develop the following: a plan to address traffic control, visitor management and emergency response, a plan for event staging and demobilization activities, wildland fire response plan and a Unified Command incident management team and a go/no-go checklist.


Similar events could be planned in future years if conditions remain the same and impacts are as described in the environmental assessment.


The environmental assessment was available to the public, agencies and tribes for review and comment during a 30-day period from Feb. 28 through March 30. Over 700 comments were received. All comments were reviewed, the release said, and substantive comments were responded to by experts in appropriate subject matter.


The NPS concluded that going forward with an alternative one would not “constitute an impairment of the resources or values” at Mount Rushmore. The reached conclusion is based on consideration of the memorial’s purpose and significance, a thorough analysis of the environmental impacts described in the environmental assessment (which included measures to minimize and mitigate potential impacts), comments provided and the direction of NPS Management Policies 2006, NPS’s 2011 for Non-Impairment Determinations and the NPS NEPA Process.


The finding of no significant impact and the environmental assessment are both available for review at


“I am grateful to everyone involved in the process to reinstitute the tradition of a magnificent fireworks display at Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day,” said Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rob Wallace in a release. “We are eager to move forward in partnership with the state of South Dakota to provide a memorable patriotic experience this summer.”


In May of 2019 it was announced that work was being done by South Dakota and the Department of the Interior to bring fireworks back to the memorial, which has not seen fireworks in over a decade.


Fireworks stopped being held at the memorial due to environmental issues — particularly ground water pollution, fire hazards and damage to the surrounding environment. In January, President Trump — while signing the U.S.-China trade deal — said the fireworks at Mount

Rushmore would be happening and expressed his interest and desire to attend the fireworks.


On Jan. 30 Patricia Trap, acting superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wallace and David Vela, acting National Parks Service director, met at Mount Rushmore to discuss the current status of the proposal.


“I’m here in particular because of (President Donald Trump’s) interest in the Fourth of July fireworks out here at Mount Rushmore,” Wallace said at the Jan. 30 press conference. “He’s very excited about this opportunity. I know he wants to work with (South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem) and be a great partner with her interests in the fireworks display.”


In February, the South Dakota lawmakers sent a formal invitation to attend the Mount Rushmore fireworks.


A total of 18 members of the South Dakota House of Representatives including District 30 Reps. Julie Frye-Mueller and Tim Goodwin along with two senators — including District 30 Sen. Lance Russell — signed on as sponsors that  formally invited President Donald Trump and


First Lady Melania Trump to watch the fireworks at Mount Rushmore  July 3.


The resolution passed in the house 60-7 with three votes excused. The resolution was introduced in the house Feb. 4, voted upon Feb. 6 and signed by Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls, who was also signed on as a sponsor of the resolution.

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