LandVest Brings Together
Harvard Forest, Private Landowner, and Quabbin Watershed
in Unique Conservation Collaboration
Tom Pugliese owned a 37 acre property in Petersham surrounded on three sides by Harvard Forest (HF), Harvard University’s field center for ecology and conservation. Mr. Pugliese, a home builder, had previously subdivided a portion of the property to build a home for one of his children and intended to subdivide the balance of the property for additional homes. The land had been perk tested for septic systems and the number of lots would be determined by available road frontage and wetlands within the property. Mr. Pugliese’s real estate broker, Chuck Berube, contacted HF as an abutter to see if they might be interested in acquiring the property. HF engaged LandVest as a real estate consultant to explore how the conservation of these 37 acres might be accomplished so that intensive development did not compromise long term forest research.
Keith Ross, Senior Advisor at LandVest, had previously constructed partnerships for HF with local land trusts; Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and the East Quabbin Land Trust to conserve other parcels that abutted HF lands where long term forest monitoring experiments were underway. The Pugliese property was located in an area identified by the state agency responsible for clean water as a priority conservation target for the protection of the Swift River which feeds the Quabbin Reservoir, public drinking water for more than 2.2 million people in Massachusetts. A partnership was developed with Jim French, DCR Watershed Acquisitions Director, which involved his department’s purchase of a conservation restriction over the Pugliese 37 acres, now subdivided into 6 building lots, Mr. Pugliese who entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with HF which established a timeline to complete the required appraisals, hazardous waste inspections, title research, and achieve all the necessary state and university required approvals. In order to achieve approval of the necessary state boards, HF donated a conservation restriction of equal value over 126 acres of their abutting land which surrounded the Pugliese property and provided thousands of feet of direct protection along the banks of the Swift River.
This unique collaboration was conceived by LandVest and inspired by the HF report Wildlands and Woodlands, A Vision for the New England Landscape. The landowner, who patiently waited for this three and half year process to unfold after investing in the costs associated with establishment of the 6 building lots, Harvard Forest, whose Director, David Foster secured Harvard University’s approval to make a first of its kind commitment of permanent restrictions on University owned land as part of an acquisitions strategy, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Watershed Supply Division permanently protected 163 acres. This project illustrates how complex transactions can come together when all parties think creatively and work together. The acquisition cost to the state to conserve the 163 acres was $206,000 and the cost to HF to ensure integrity of its forest research activities in this area was $144,000 to acquire the 34 restricted acres of forest.