The request was turned down because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the high risk of sparking dangerous wildfires in the dry area in the middle of summer and because of opposition by local Native American tribes, according to a letter from NPS Regional Director Herbert Frost that was obtained by The Hill.
“Potential risks to the park itself, and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event,” Frost wrote to the head of the state’s tourism department, referring to then-President Donald Trump’s insistence on fireworks at the spot for the first time in 11 years last Independence Day.
“In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial,” Frost added.
“These factors, compiled with the COVID-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site,” he wrote.
Trump’s fireworks event was hugely controversial last year because of the very real fear of wildfires, the harm to the open space by a huge crowd and the fact that it was largely a campaign rally paid for by taxpayers. Neither masks nor social distancing was enforced. Trump reportedly mused that his face could one day join the other presidents’ features on Mount Rushmore.
A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted that she would do “everything in her ability to ensure that we can celebrate America’s birthday with fireworks at Mount Rushmore.” Noem declared the spot the “best place to celebrate America’s birthday.”