Contact: Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Planning Director Donna Lewis has been named to a prestigious national council designed to promote and protect urban and suburban trees and landscapes throughout the United States.

Lewis, who has served as Planning Director for the County for the past 11 years and has been a County employee since 1987, has been appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council based in Washington, D.C. She is one of 15 council members from a wide array of professional backgrounds, each representing a specific public or academic sector. Lewis is the sole representative of County government.

"I'm honored to have been selected to serve on The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council," said Lewis. "Our urban and suburban tree canopy is increasingly important given the role trees can play in offsetting the effects of climate change. The council seeks to cultivate a better understanding of the value of trees in our neighborhoods and communities, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to represent the role counties play in this endeavor."

Lewis will serve a three-year, renewable term on the council and began her term in January.

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes congratulated Lewis and said her leadership in the planning division, which has preserved thousands of acres of open space in the County and has assisted municipalities in developing carefully and responsibly, makes her a fitting choice for the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council.

"This significant appointment shows the expertise Donna Lewis brings to planning in urban and suburban communities with respect to the environment," Hughes said. "She is well respected in her field and I'm confident she will represent the interests of the thousands of American counties well."

The 1990 Farm Bill created the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council to bring together the wide variety of voices raised about a common concern: the present health and future preservation of America's urban treescapes, according to the council's website.

In its attempt to preserve existing trees and to raise awareness about the importance of trees in our ever-expanding communities, the council's roles are wide-ranging.

According to its website, The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council is the author and chief steward of a national action plan on urban and community forestry; it initiates programs to reforest urban areas; provides cash grants on the local level for forestry initiatives; develops effective, practical policies for maintaining treescapes across the U.S.; encourages and supports volunteer forestry programs; seeks non-traditional funding for forestry programs; and advises the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on the status of urban and community treescapes.

"Through the use of a properly designed, high quality planting and maintenance program, our communities will benefit from cooler summer air, warmer homes in winter, cleaner air and water, quieter streets, peaceful neighborhoods, healthy and productive local economies, and overall improved and expanded urban environments for all Americans," the council's mission statement reads.