As a result of their combined efforts, Ingate Farm in Western Massachusetts joins Mount Holyoke Range State Park.
When she began to tackle the complex series of transactions required to acquire 337 acres of Western Massachusetts forestland and endangered species habitat formerly known as Ingate Farm, Trust for Public Land (TPL) counsel and Goodwin alumna Lauren Butler immediately contacted Goodwin attorneys for assistance.
Working with Lauren, a Goodwin pro bono team navigated complex legal issues and crafted a deal that would preserve Ingate Farm, a crucial first step in its eventual sale to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for addition to protected habitat in the Mount Holyoke Range State Park (MHRSP).
Located on the eastern edge of MHRSP, Ingate Farm was purchased in 2004 by New York developer Deep Woods, LLC. However, when the economy soured in 2008, Deep Woods lost its financing and faced serious financial troubles.
In April 2010, Lauren and TPL joined ongoing discussions between Kestrel Land Trust, DCR and Deep Woods about the fate of the property. After a bankruptcy filing in New York by Deep Woods forced the cancellation of a November 2010 foreclosure auction, TPL began negotiations to purchase the property. The task wouldnâ€™t be easy â€“ in addition to complex bankruptcy proceedings, the extensive swath of land carried a hefty $1.4 million price tag.
Having worked as a real estate transactional lawyer at Goodwin from 1999 to 2005, when she left to join TPL after connecting with the organization through a 4-month Pro Bono Initiative externship in 2003, Lauren knew that Goodwin had the capabilities to navigate the complex legal issues.
"Goodwin and TPL have a longstanding pro bono relationship, so it's my go-to firm," Lauren explained. "Whenever we need sophisticated legal expertise, especially in environmental or bankruptcy law, Goodwin is always my first choice."
On June 15, 2011, the Ingate Farm sale closed, with TPL paying its original offer price of $1.4 million. Although TPL intended to sell Ingate to the DCR directly, state timing issues and a unique opportunity to leverage private funding resulted in the Massachusetts Audubon Society stepping in as the interim buyer.
"I am glad that Mass Audubon could play a key role in bringing this project across the finish line," said Laura Johnson, President of Mass Audubon. "This was a real win for conservation in a beautiful part of Massachusetts."
TPL sold the land to Mass Audubon at a bargain price of $1.35 million. Mass Audubon is holding the property pending sale to DCR, which plans to buy Ingate Farm from Mass Audubon this fall for $1 million. Several conservation groups and a private foundation are funding the balance of the price.
As a result of Goodwin's pro bono support, made possible through the strong alumni connection with Lauren, TPL successfully preserved Ingate Farm for recreation and the protection of endangered wildlife for generations to come.
For more information about the Ingate Farm partnership, read the official press release here.