Not many high school sophomores can say they began a crusade for something that would remain a cause for their lifetime, but Toby Montoya can. In 2002, Montoya was a 14 year old, who had an IMAC computer and a desire to send out a plea to save Walker Lake. Montoya and his friend Casey Kee made an initial move to begin an effort to send out valid information about the lake, express their concerns and alert the public that a potential loss of a beloved lake was slipping away from public view.
“Maybe I was ahead of my time, but I knew the lake needed a voice, even if it was mine and I was just a high school kid. A year into it, my government teacher, Darren Hamrey joined in and used the cause as a teaching opportunity, forming a group of us to actually go before politicians in Carson City and express our concerns with our voices.” They became known as The Crusaders in 2003 and picketed the state building with signs that simply said, “Save Walker Lake”.
Fast forward to the latest signage along Highway 95 only to find Montoya and his band of supporters still voicing their urgent concerns while putting forth a physical effort, as well as their own finances to save Walker Lake. Feeling an urgency as never before, the shoreline still shrinks as Montoya remains asking for a united community to push the governor and the current legislature to not only support the lake, but to support the return of our recreation and eco system that once flourished within this county.
The Crusaders have stepped up to be a voice which counters many rumors and corrects the negative stance which naysayers express.
“Reviving Walker Lake is not an impossibility, but the inlet must be restored and our voices must be heard. It is time to write our letters, call our politicians and stand up for what is right. Steps are being made to recover the natural water basin with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation administering the Walker Basin Restoration Program. The water has been rerouted by human hands long enough, which brought it to its current state. Now humans have to fix it.” Montoya expressed.
The Walker Lake Working Group continues to support his informational efforts as well as many individuals which support the Crusaders through a website with links to vital, honest information. Montoya hears from individuals throughout the world, concerned about the welfare of Walker Lake, which is described on the most recent Bureau of Land Management webpage as being “a rare perennial lake of the Great Basin, with 38,000 acres of prominent geographical features, which is the primary focal point for recreation.”
Montoya has been compared by his cousin, Garth Price as more than a firecracker. “He is more like a candle that never goes out. His energy for this lake will not burn out and that encourages me and others to help him anyway we can to see the lake revive again.”
Both young men expressed a passion for the area, with memories of playing on the shoreline.
Montoya stated, “I can give you so many statistics about the lake’s loss in inches or the average depths, but the most important thing to know is that laws were enacted to provide funding and technical support to improve the health of this lake and bring back our recreation. Credit must go to Senator Harry Reid, as he has been the primary Politician to care about this lake even though we are only one of three natural lakes in Nevada.”
As the future of Mineral County stands at a cross road, it could be devastating should this lake ever be allowed to become a dried, alkaline lake bed of blowing sand. Montoya urged visitors, tourists, current or past residents to visit and respond to his website: www.walkerlakecrusaders.com or find Save Walker Lake on Facebook to gather more information.