Tribe Allowed to Intervene in Suit Over Mt. Rushmore Fireworks Display over Environmental Concerns

Judge Roberto A. Lange has granted permissive intervention to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and its tribal historic preservation officer, Steve Vance, over a suit filed by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem regarding a possible firework show at Mount Rushmore on July 3. The Department of Interior (DOI) denied the governor’s request to obtain a permit to conduct the show, to which Noem responded by citing that the DOI “acted arbitrarily and capriciously contrary to the Administrative Procedure Act in denying the State a permit for its planned fireworks display,” and Congress had “unconstitutionally delegated legislative power to the National Park Service.”

The DOI explained that the permit denial was due, in part, to the Sioux tribal leaders’ opposition to the governors’ proposed firework show. Mount Rushmore, where the show is designated to take place, is an area which is regarded as sacred in the Sioux culture. The tribe has “multiple traditional cultural properties there, and conduct[s] traditional cultural practices there.” Sioux leaders allege that the request for a show in the first-place disrespects them because it “fails to acknowledge the inherent and treaty-protected interest of tribes regarding the management and conservation of federal lands and resources in the United States.”

Following the permit denial, Noem filed suit against officials within the Department of Interior and National Park Service. These individuals include Deb Haaland (United States Secretary of the Interior), Shannon A. Estenoz (Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior for Fish and Wildlife Parks), and Hebert Frost (National Park Service Director of the Midwest Region). The Sioux tribe and their accompanying officer, Steve Vance, then filed motion to intervene in the lawsuit. Judge Lange of the District of South Dakota granted the requested permissive intervention, arguing that the tribe and Vance possess “a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact.”

The case will now take place with the Sioux tribe and Steve Vance acting as intervenor defendants. Noem is seeking for the court to rule that the permit denial was “arbitrary and capricious,” and also is asking that the court issue a preliminary injunction ordering the DOI to grant the requested permit.The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Steve Vance will be represented by Big Fire Law & Policy Group LLP.