Fact-checking president's claims on Mount Rushmore fireworks

Fact-checking president's claims on Mount Rushmore fireworks

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Mount Rushmore

In this July 18, 2006 file photo, Mount Rushmore National Memorial is shown near Keystone, S.D. (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers, File)

At the signing ceremony for a much awaited U.S.-China trade deal, President Donald Trump announced plans for a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore on July 4, 2020.

With South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in the audience, Trump said arranging the fireworks at the state's landmark was easy. "I called up our people and within about 15 minutes we got it approved and you're going to have your first big fireworks display at Mt. Rushmore," Trump said Wednesday.

Dismissing concerns that the fireworks posed an environmental threat, Trump said, "what can burn? It's stone," adding that "nobody knew why, they just said environmental reasons."

FACTS FIRST

Trump is wrong to suggest there hasn't been a large fireworks display at Mount Rushmore before. There were July 4 fireworks at Mt. Rushmore for several years, but they were discontinued in 2009 over environmental concerns including increased risk of fires. Also, the decision to resume fireworks at the South Dakota landmark was not approved "in 15 minutes," as the National Park Service is still evaluating the proposal.

Previously, fireworks at The Mount Rushmore National Memorial were suspended due to a pine beetle infestation which made the Black Hills National Forest surrounding the monument more susceptible to wildfires. A 2016 report by the U.S. Geological Survey also found that past fireworks displays likely contaminated groundwater within the memorial, though drinking water remained safe for consumption. Since then, "the forest has gained strength and advancements in pyrotechnics allow for a safe fireworks display," according to a May 2019 statement from Noem's Press Secretary.

The statement noted that after "several months of meetings and discussions," the U.S. Department of the Interior and the State of South Dakota agreed to work toward returning fireworks to Mount Rushmore for July 2020. This process includes tribal consultation and an evaluation by the NPS which is ongoing. The proposal will be available for public comment sometime in early 2020.

Amanda St. Amand • 314-340-8201

@mandystlpd on Twitter

astamand@post-dispatch.com

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