LDS Church Attempts to Buy Public Land of Religious Significance

May 15, 2002

Source: Los Angeles Times

On May 15, 2002, the Los Angeles Times reported that "a bill in Congress, opposed by conservationists and history buffs, would allow the Mormon Church to buy a chunk of historic public land beside four pioneer trails southwest of Casper, Wyo... The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wants to buy a 1,640-acre site known as Martin's Cove, where at least 56 Mormon immigrants died in a blizzard in 1856... But conservationists worry that the U.S. Department of the Interior would set a dangerous precedent by selling the land to a religious group without a guarantee of public access or assurances that the area's secular history will be honored... The site, which also contains Native American artifacts... is listed on the National Register of Historic Places... The church says it would allow access to any members of the public, though church officials have declined to talk about plans for the site... Several tribes are closely watching the proposed sale, in hopes that other publicly held areas of religious significance to them... may one day be returned to them."