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for people who care about the West

TBD stands for...


...Texas Billionaire Developer.

Ray Ring’s January essay told the tale of one Texas billionaire you shouldn’t trust. Well, here’s another to watch out for. His name is Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, and he might try to develop a place that’s near and dear to you!

McCombs is the founder of one of the world’s largest auto conglomerates, the co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, and also the former owner of multiple pro sports teams. He’s got his hands in a lot of places.

Most recently, McCombs has been trying to bring hotshot resorts to a couple places in the West: one on the shores of Lake Powell, that huge reservoir that sits on the border between Utah and Arizona, and the other a ski resort in Southwest Colorado’s Wolf Creek. But thanks to ongoing drought in the West and the economic downturn everywhere in the world, it’s possible that both of these plans will be nixed.

In 2007, McCombs gave 10 Texas longhorn cattle (valued at $10,000) to the Navajo Nation, whose land he hoped would be leased for his proposed 50,000-acre development. Critics questioned why the gift never made headlines. Directed toward the central government of the Navajo Nation, the LeChee Chapter approved a resolution stating that further discussions of development must include them. “We will resist any move to take our land," they added. Currently, development plans are still at the "conversation over coffee" stage, says Navajo Nation Resources Chairman George Arthur.

It’s not the first time McCombs has tried the ol’ “gift” tactic. In 2005, the Village at Wolf Creek, McCombs' proposed ski resort, donated over $5,000 to the construction fund for a medical facility in nearby Creede, Colo., according to Janelle Kukuk, who led the facility's fundraising efforts. Kukuk denies any notion that the contribution was a bribe, but says, "Was it a good PR move on his part? Yeah maybe, but he wasn't the only one."

Luckily for the Wolf Creek residents, McCombs’ development is stalled, because the proposed road to his “Village” goes through Forest Service land. And an approved Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a prerequisite for building on Forest Service land. But McCombs missed his EIS deadline last year. If the Village plans ever go through (with this economy? Yeah right!), those reintroduced Canada lynx will have a steady flow of luxury SUV traffic to deal with.