Although I appreciated Lisa Church’s article on "Cloudrock," the proposed luxury resort development in Moab (HCN, 3/26/01: Luxury looms over Moab), two important pieces of the story were missed.
When Church describes the developer of the proposed Cloudrock lodge as "the Salt Lake-based Moab Mesa Land Company (MMLC)," she gets both her geography and corporate genealogy wrong. The headquarters of MMLC (and indeed, the phone number you printed to contact the company) are located in New York City. The company itself is a limited liability partnership between the developer, Michael Liss, and his former employer, George Butterfield, the founder of the travel giant Butterfield and Robinson (B&R;), which is based in Toronto, Canada. MMLC has no association with Salt Lake City, excepting the cadre of lawyers that they’ve hired from there.
Although spokespersons at Butterfield and Robinson — one of the largest "upscale" hiking and biking companies in the world — presently deny any association between Cloudrock and their company, until January of this year the development was posted proudly on the B&R; Web site. As well, numerous public statements by Michael Liss have indicated that the resort will be financed through and marketed by Butterfield and Robinson. So, although MMLC is technically a partnership between Mr. Liss (who sits on the Board of B&R;) and Mr. Robinson, it is more accurately a de facto subsidiary of the world-class travel company that boasts of its "sensitivity" to local cultures in its glossy 84-page catalog.
The importance of these facts is directly related to the other core issue of the story — the role of Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration in the Cloudrock fiasco. Ric McBrier of SITLA boasts that the agency has over $300,000 budgeted in the current year for so-called "block sales" similar to the 1,930-acre Cloudrock proposal. McBrier’s glee over his line item begs the question: Who can afford to purchase 2,000-acre parcels of prime real estate on the Colorado Plateau? Certainly the answer is not individuals, but corporations.
So it’s not just luxury that looms over Moab and the rest of southern Utah, but corporate control of what will eventually become the majority of private land in the lower part of our state. That’s what sticks in our craw down here, and keeps us fighting, far more than the ritzy pamperedness of the proposed Butterfield and Robinson development.