The LDS Church wants to acquire federal land that contains the site of a devastating blizzard that killed about 150 Mormon pioneers.
The 500 to 600 acres includes Martin's Cove northeast of Muddy Gap in southern Natrona County. The church is looking for comparable land on the Oregon and Mormon trails to trade to the Bureau of Land Management.Martin's Cove is "a legacy of faith and courage left by early converts as they gathered to their Zion," the church's land management arm, Farm Management Co., wrote in a recent letter to the BLM.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also wants to maintain access to Martin's Cove from a visitors center. About 80,000 people have visited the Mormon Handcart Visitors Center since it was dedicated last year to the disastrous trek.
The pioneers, members of Captain Edward Martin's handcart company, died of hunger and cold as they tried to take shelter from a blizzard in October of 1856.
Many of the center's visitors pull handcarts along the four-mile trail to the cove to re-enact the event.
BLM officials said they would be willing to consider a swap that is located in Wyoming, has good trail ruts, perhaps a historic home or ranch that is connected to the trails, or which is a site of a significant historical occurrence.
It must be of equal value to Martin's Cove, have public support and good access for visitors, officials said.
"A trade is not going to work if it's just for some run-of-the-mill land somewhere," said Jack Kelly, BLM manager for the Lander Resource Area.