Great Basin advocate dies

Former Nevada legislator Darwin Lambert, who led a 1950s effort to create a national park in Nevada and then wrote its story, has died at age 91 in Page Memorial Hospital in Virginia.

Lambert was the editor of the Ely Daily Times and spent several years promoting the glories of that part of the world and that section of U.S. 50. He served as executive secretary of the White Pine Chamber of Commerce and Mines and president of the Western States Highway 50 Association.

He was a leader in the 1950s of the effort to create a national park in the area, an effort that had already been underway for several decades. Eventually he was to write Great Basin Drama/The Story of a National Park. He also wrote The Undying Past of Shenandoah National Park, The earth-man story, Gold Strike in Hell, Herbert Hoover’s Hideaway, Beautiful Shenandoah: A Handbook for Visitors to Shenandoah National Park, Illustrated Guide to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and Timberline Ancients. This last title, illustrated with photos by David Meunch, was a coffee table book about Nevada’s bristlecone pines, the second-oldest living things known on earth. He reportedly completed an autobiography last year.

As a member of the Nevada Assembly in 1954-56, Lambert won enactment of legislation authorizing the governor to designate scenic and historical sites to bring them under the protection of the state Parks Commission, an effort to deal with vandalism at sites like a Nevada petrified forest.

In 1959, Lambert said, “The [national] park proposal has had enough support and publicity now to gain attention in all the top echelons, but still the trail to success is quite long. It is up to all of us in Nevada, interested in promoting the economy of the state and in preserving for all time an important park of America’s heritage, to get behind this movement.”

In 1961, Lambert moved to Juneau, where he was editor of the Daily Alaska Empire. In an interview with the Empire last week, his son Harvey said Lambert also made films about eastern Nevada. His son, who lives in Reno, also said, “He was the one I looked up to in my youth and ever since.”

U.S. Rep. Harry Reid finally got Congress to create Great Basin National Park in 1986, a park described by Newsweek that year as “The Last Great Park.” It includes Wheeler Peak, bristlecone pines and the Lehman caverns. Lambert’s Great Basin Drama, recounting the long battle to create the park, was published five years later.