Wet Blanket

A sensitive natural area at risk.

Wetlands compose less than two percent of the land in Montana, but there's some right here in Bozeman—for now, anyway.

As co-owner of 33 acres of marshy ground behind the Village Downtown (north of East Main, near the railroad tracks), developer Mike Delaney claims he’d like these wetlands preserved. To date, the proposed buyer is the city of Bozeman, but superintendent Ron Dingman told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle recently that the city can't pony up the roughly $1.3 million asking price. Delaney offered to donate half of the appraised value if the city paid the other half in “park credits,” but the city doesn’t think losing park space in future developments is a good idea, either. Delaney says he can't afford the liability of a recreational area, and if the city doesn’t buy it, he will likely drain the wetland and either sell it off or develop it himself.

Although land-use permit regulations generally require developers to replace drained marshes with even bigger wetlands, the Chronicle cited Delaney as saying that those stipulations may not apply to his property. If the city can't buy the marsh, locals like former mayor Marcia Youngman and wetland scientist Lynn Bacon are hoping Bozeman officials will at least endorse another option: nominating the wetlands for purchase and preservation to the National Audubon Society. These preservationists stress that the bird-laden marsh could be a prime link in the Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s ongoing project, the Main Street to the Mountains trail system.

Why Delaney doesn’t simply donate the land to the city, or offer it at a reduced price without eliminating future park space, is another question altogether. He could also ask the city to help him insure the land, instead of threatening to develop it if they don’t fork over the $1.3 million. Apparently, for Delaney—who wanted to build a hotel over Soroptomist Park and who asked the city for a $25,000 tax credit after spending $2 million renovating his 6,000-square-foot home on South Willson—“affordability” is a relative term.