CRM director set to leave post

After 20 years of working as an environmental advocate and conservation proponent, Fran Castro, director of the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality’s Division of Coastal Resources Management, is leaving the agency in June.

Castro is relocating to Guam to be with her husband, Dr. Peter Houk, a marine biology professor at the University of Guam.

In a statement, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres commended Castro for her years in public service and environmental advocacy.

“Fran’s public service career has spanned more than a quarter century, and during that time, she has made tremendous contributions to the CNMI. In addition to helping secure millions in federal and nonfederal grants, Fran’s leadership and knowledge have raised the Commonwealth’s profile within regional and national environmental arenas. Her positions on high level boards and committees have also given us a greater say in the management and administration of our unique natural resources. On the local level, we have come to rely heavily on Fran’s strategic thinking and depth of experience in conservation practices and coral reef protection. Her departure from BECQ is not just a great loss to that agency, but also for the CNMI.”

Torres thanked Castro for her service to the Commonwealth and wished her well as she prepares to move to Guam to be with her husband.

“Although she is moving to Guam, Fran has mentioned that she will continue to call Saipan her home and promises to make frequent visits. No matter her future endeavors, I am very confident she will continue to be a passionate advocate for the environment and for the CNMI wherever she goes,” he added.

Prior to becoming CRM director (a post she held for more than three years), Castro worked as a program manager for DEQ’s Nonpoint Source Pollution and Marine Monitoring Program. She also worked for the Office of Planning and Budget, the Office of the Attorney General, and the CNMI Superior Court before joining DEQ.

She was appointed by the governor as the CNMI’s point of contact to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and the U.S. All Islands Committee comprised of American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2011, she was elected to be the chairperson of the committee until her last day on the job.

She served as focal point for the Micronesia Challenge, a commitment to effectively conserve 30 percent marine resources and 20 percent terrestrial resources by 2020, and to secure sustainable finances for environmental conservation. The challenge was an initiative signed by the governments of the CNMI, Guam, the Republics of Palau, Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. She chaired the committee in 2010, and is currently the vice-chair of the Steering Committee.

She is a member of the Pacific Islands Regional Planning Body, a component of the National Ocean Council established by President Obama in 2010. The PIRPB is comprised of eight federal members and eight non-federal members. Shortly thereafter, the Pacific Regional Ocean Partnership, comprised of members from American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, and Hawaii, was established and she was designated as the CNMI member and currently sits as the chairperson until she leaves.

She served as the CNMI delegate for the Coastal States Organization and was elected by the members to be on the CSO Executive Committee as the representative and chair for the islands coastal working group comprised of American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Castro was one of the founders of the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance here in the CNMI. (PR)

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