Concern was raised after Nevada Deptarment of Corrections (DOC) Director James Dzurenda announced during a meeting of the Nevada Legislature Senate Committee on Judiciary matters on Feb. 9, that the Humboldt Conservation Camp (HCC) would be closing in order to address staffing problems at the Lovelock Prison. 

Humboldt County relies on the work of inmates at the HCC, also known as the honor camp, for a wide variety of services, whether it’s picking up trash, building fences, or putting out wildfires. Both the economical benefits to the County and the training and opportunities provided to the inmates from the Lovelock Prison are invaluable.

“We’re gonna be bringing those correction officers and staff [from the HCC] over to Lovelock to help with the crisis in staffing over there and we’re going to be resending the offenders in the camp to other camps so we don’t lose the [Nevada Department of Forestry’s] training on them and the expansion of the program,” said Dzurenda. 

Just a few weeks later, Nevada Department of Forestry (NDF) State Forester Firewarden Kacey KC confirmed in a phone call that “as of now there is no intent of closing,” despite what Dzurenda had said to the Legislature. She explained that the DOC is actively trying to come up with creative approaches to help solve staffing issues, with the Lovelock Prison staffing levels down to 45 percent, thus temporarily closing camps and relocating employees and inmates. 

Local officials also confirmed that the legislature is pausing the closure of the camp as well. Pushback from both staff at HCC and concern from the County may have been the driving force behind the sudden change in decision, which was not announced to the NDF until Dzurenda spoke before the Legislature.

Humboldt Conservation Camp Supervisor Eric Van Cleemput appeared before the Humboldt County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 21  in regards to the announcement by the DOC to close the camp.

He stated that the closure of the camp would not be beneficial to the County, especially the loss of services that the programs at the HCC supplies and that the final decision of whether it will be closed or not will be made at a meeting of Nevada Legislature in March.

“If the camp closes there will be loss of jobs and community assistance. The state wildfire response will be delayed tremendously," Van Cleemput said. "There will be natural resources projects that will go unaccomplished and state-wide shared stewardship projects with the conservation districts and BLM that will no longer be able to take place, as well as the small but fruitful things that the camp does for the community and residents." 

The fiscal impact alone of the loss of this program to Humboldt County would be significant, which would fall directly on taxpayers.  

The Camp provides opportunities for inmates to train to fight fires on 10-man crews under the NDF, allowing for a rapid response to fires during fire season, and provides a range of other labor services during the off season, as well as offers inmates opportunities to attain their GED or high school diploma.

 According to Humboldt County Assessor’s maps, the parcel that the Camp sits on is Bureau Land Management property. Many parcels owned by the BLM and leased to other entities, like Humboldt County, are protected under reverter clauses, which require land to be reclaimed, including all buildings and  materials, after it is no longer used for the original purposes. If the HCC is closed, this could mean huge losses to Humboldt County as multimillion dollar upgrades have been made to the grounds in the past years. 

Staff from the DOC were unavailable for comment.