Audubon International Announces Black Desert Resort Partnership

by | Sep 18, 2023 | News

Audubon International – the environmentally focused non-profit organization offering members numerous certifications and conservation initiatives to protect the areas where we all live, work and play – welcomes Black Desert Resort, a sustainability-driven golf, lodging, recreation and residential community near St. George, Utah, as a registered member of its Audubon International Signature Sanctuary Program.

Over the coming months, Black Desert will work closely with Audubon International’s team of environmental specialists to formulate a plan to earn property-wide designation as a Platinum Certified Signature Sanctuary, starting with its 19-hole championship golf course. The late Tom Weiskopf’s final design, which winds through a tableau of red rocks and black lava fields, opened to rave reviews in May 2023. The course will host an annual PGA Tour event starting in September 2024 and an LPGA event starting in 2025.

Reef Capital Partners, the investment firm behind Black Desert, put environmental sustainability at the center of its development plan from day one, with an eye toward eventually achieving Signature Sanctuary Platinum Certification for the entire property.

“We are thrilled to welcome Black Desert as the first Signature Sanctuary Platinum enrollee in the state of Utah, and one of the first in America,” said Christine Kane, Audubon International’s CEO. “As the development takes shape on some of the West’s most ecologically diverse and visually stunning landscapes, we will partner with them to create a lasting and groundbreaking model of environmental stewardship on all fronts — golf course, resort, retail and residential.”

Troon Golf, led by Superintendent Ken Yates, manages the course, overseeing its maintenance and maturation and crucial protocols like water use, turf selection, and coverage. Black Desert’s 150-room eco-hotel is set to open in fall 2024, with Golf Village, Family Village and Boardwalk complexes to follow. The long-term plan envisions the potential for up to 1,000 homes.

“We’re doing hotel, the golf course and the other home development sites, all at the same time,” said Yates.

All irrigation comes from gray water sources to save water on Black Desert’s 75 acres of turf. Fairways will use bentgrass, which eliminates the need to overseed or apply too many chemical fertilizers. “It’s more of a permanent turf solution,” said Yates. “Now we have grasses that can handle our hot summers and cold winters.”

This light-on-the-land ethic will continue throughout the entire project, including the hotel and other structural elements, starting with a low-voltage Power Over Ethernet system and an advanced regenerative media filter system for water savings.

“From the golf course standpoint, we look to be as sustainable as we can be. And Audubon International has shown a track record of assisting with that. That’s really what our partnership is about,” said Ross Laubscher, executive director of construction and Agronomy for Reef Capital. “We’re looking for them to help us develop a product that all can be proud of, that shows we’re environmentally conscious and that the product is sustainable years from now.”

Reef Capital has also enlisted Dr. Joseph Platt as director of environmental affairs to look after the vast natural areas of the 600-acre property. With Audubon International’s direction, he will work with staff and faculty from nearby Utah Tech University to initiate research and monitoring programs.

“Projects such as Black Desert can be created in an environmentally sensitive or in a heavy-handed way,” said Dr. Platt. “The difference is time, money and vision. Black Desert has chosen to invest resources in preserving hundreds of acres of natural areas, reducing water and power requirements, and developing ways to educate the public about our environmental resolve. By partnering with Audubon International, we will ensure our commitment to the environment grows and matures with Black Desert.”

For more information about Black Desert Resort, visit