Protecting the Water of 5 Million New Jerseyans: Lisa Plevin to Lead Highlands Council
By Alex Ambrose, Policy Assistant, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
New Jersey League of Conservation Voters would like to congratulate Lisa J. Plevin to her appointment as Executive Director for the New Jersey Highlands Council. Lisa takes over the role after Margaret Nordstrom, who is stepping down after joining the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council staff six years ago. The Highlands Council is a 15-member appointed body tasked with implementation of the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act of 2004. The Highlands Council is advised in its actions by its Executive Director, who serves as the chief administrative officer of the Council.
The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act was passed to protect the Highlands from piecemeal development patterns that were consuming 5-square-miles of Highlands forests and wetlands each year. The Highlands Council’s primary goal is to uphold this Act and protect the Highlands, a physiographic region of New Jersey that includes 88 municipalities within 7 counties and provides drinking water for over 5 million residents of New Jersey. As I’ve seen under past state administrations, it’s hard not to lose sight of protecting water sources while wading through the polluted waters of partisan fighting - but I know Lisa can do it.
I will never forget my first meeting with Lisa after she helped New Jersey LCV Education Fund spearhead the effort to develop and environmental transition planning guide, Environmental Agenda ’18, which provides recommendations to the Governor on key environmental projects and policies. It sounds simple, but to collaborate with 30 passionate New Jersey non-profit leaders and coordinate the plethora of ideas into one cohesive guide was not going to be easy. However, during that first meeting, Lisa laughed when someone mentioned possible conflict.
“I’m a middle child,” Lisa said and smiled across the conference room at me. “I’m a born diplomat.” As a fellow middle child, I couldn’t help but smile back. Her task wasn’t easy, but I could tell that she had the right attitude for the job and could take on anything.
Besides sibling conflict-resolution, Lisa has a long history of advocating for New Jersey’s clean water. After graduating Richard Stockton College with a B.S. in Environmental Science, her efforts at Clean Water Action helped pass New Jersey’s landmark water legislation—the Clean Water Enforcement Act. This was the first state law to call for criminal penalties for violations of the Water Pollution Act.
Lisa also worked for U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg in 1990 and 2003, as senior advisor and liaison on New Jersey and regional environmental issues. Senator Lautenberg championed several landmark environmental laws, and was a leading advocate for the 2004 Highlands Conservation Act, which authorizes Congress to spend up to $10 million a year in matching funds for protection, research, and technical assistance programs in the Highlands Region.
Lisa then served as chief of staff for Region 2 of the U.S. EPA under President Obama, working on a wide variety of environmental programs and projects impacting New Jersey. After her work with New Jersey LCV Education Fund, she was appointed Deputy Director for the Environment and Energy Transition Committee for then Governor-Elect Phil Murphy. You would be hard-pressed to find someone with a more well-suited background of protecting the natural resources of the Highlands and working with local New Jersey organizations than Lisa Plevin.
In July, I had the pleasure of watching the Highlands Council unanimously vote “yes” on Lisa’s appointment as Executive Director. Winding my way home through Chester and Mendham, past Jockey Hollow and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge—all places where I fell in love with nature as a child—I thought about lucky New Jersey is to have Lisa on our side to help protect cherished natural resources.