Lee Wilson Papers

Special Collections Department
Robert E. Kennedy Library
1 Grand Avenue
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0605
Phone: (805) 756-2305
Fax: (805) 756-5770
URL: http://www.lib.calpoly.edu/specialcollections/
Email: archives@lib.calpoly.edu
© 1992, 2007
Trustees of the California State University. All rights reserved.

Lee Wilson Papers

Special Collections Department



Robert E. Kennedy Library

1 Grand Avenue

California Polytechnic State University

San Luis Obispo, CA 93407–0605

Contact Information

  • Special Collections Department
  • Robert E. Kennedy Library
  • 1 Grand Avenue
  • California Polytechnic State University
  • San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0605
  • Phone: (805) 756-2305
  • Fax: (805) 756-5770
  • Email: archives@lib.calpoly.edu
  • URL: http://www.lib.calpoly.edu/specialcollections/
Processed by:
Nancy E. Loe
Date Completed:
2003
Date Completed:
2007
Encoded by:
Byte Managers, 2007; Carina Love 2008; Marisa Ramirez, 2009
© 1992, 2007 Trustees of the California State University. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Lee Wilson Collection
Date (inclusive): 1956-1989
Date (bulk): (bulk 1961-1972)
Collection number: MS 113
Creator: Wilson, Lee, 1904-1989
Extent: 3 Paige containers (13 linear feet)
Repository: Special Collections, Robert E. Kennedy Library
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, California 93407-0605
On deposit from:
The Environmental Archives of San Luis Obispo County
PO Box 8106
San Luis Obispo, CA 93403-8106
Abstract: Papers of San Luis Obispo environmental activist Lee Wilson, including correspondence, research notes and materials, and photographs, primarily relating to the founding and early years of Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, the creation of the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area, and other watchdog efforts in San Luis Obispo County, California, donated by the family to The Environmental Archives of San Luis Obispo County in 1994.

Provenance

Donated by his family, Lee Wilson's papers are part of The Environmental Archives of San Luis Obispo County, which was founded at Cuesta College in the summer of 1992 by local environmental activist Harold Miossi. The collection is housed in and administered by Special Collections at Cal Poly under the terms of a depository agreement.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open to qualified researchers by appointment only. For more information on access policies and to obtain a copy of the Researcher Registration form, please visit the Special Collections Access page.
Collection stored remotely. Advance notice for use required.

Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

In order to reproduce, publish, broadcast, exhibit, and/or quote from this material, researchers must submit a written request and obtain formal permission from Cuesta College as the owner of the physical collection. Researchers should also consult with an appropriate staff member regarding literary or other intellectual property rights pertaining to this collection.
Photocopying of material is permitted at staff discretion and provided on a fee basis. Photocopies are not to be used for any purpose other than for private study, scholarship, or research. Special Collections staff reserves the right to limit photocopying and deny access or reproduction in cases when, in the opinion of staff, the original materials would be harmed.

Preferred Citation

Lee Wilson Papers, San Luis Obispo County Environmental Archives, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Biography

A founding member and first president of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Lee Wilson was a lifelong environmental activist and conservationist. His papers document his efforts on environmental causes in San Luis Obispo County, primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. Wilson was particularly active in leading grassroots efforts to influence local and federal environmental policy.
Frank and Emma Wilson's son Lee was born in Rangely, Colorado, on June 18, 1904. The Wilson family made their living as farmers and instilled a love of the land and open spaces in their son. In 1914, the family moved to Arizona, where Lee attended Mesa High School. Because of his father's asthma, the family moved to California in 1921. Lee was an Eagle Scout, graduated from high school in Lindsey, California, and attended the University of California at UCLA. Wilson and his brother started an electrical contracting business. He Lee and Lillian Wilson were married in 1928. During World War II he taught electrical engineering at UCLA and served as an air raid warden.
He became a member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club in 1948. For many years, Lee and Lillian Wilson led a group of Sierra Club members who hiked Mount Whitney every Labor Day weekend. Lee and Lillian hiked the entire John Muir Trail in the Sierra.
The Wilsons had three children: Jeannette Wilson Armstrong, Marian Wilson Sacco, and Lee Jr., who shared their parents' love of the outdoors. In 1958, Wilson moved the family business, Lee Wilson Electric Co., to Arroyo Grande so they could be near their children and live in a small community.
Wilson was an active member of the Native Plant Society of San Luis Obispo County. He researched and photographed native plants of the county with Cal Poly social sciences professor Robert F. Hoover for many years. Photographs from these trips helped illustrate Hoover's Color Supplement to the Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County, California (San Luis Obispo, Calif.: [no publisher], 1974).
In addition to serving as leader of Boy Scout Troop 248, Wilson also worked on campaigns to preserve the Pismo Beach Dunes and Oso Flaco Lake. In 1961, he was a founding member of the Santa Lucia Group, a local offshoot of the Santa Barbara-based Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club. By 1968, the Santa Lucia Group became a formal chapter of the Sierra Club.
Wilson waged successful campaigns on a number of environmental issues, most notably designation and use of wilderness areas. He worked to ban the use of off-road vehicles in local wilderness areas. The Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs recommended that the Forest Service permit off-road vehicles use in the Garcia and Machesna Mountain Wilderness Areas, stating, "Both areas appear to have no timber or mineral values but receive substantial motorized recreation use."
Wilson and other local conservations, including Ian McMillan, knew both wilderness areas had once been home to a thriving California condor population, located along the condor flyway, where they were a common sight before the increasing use of off-road vehicles. As part of his letter-writing campaign in response to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs' recommendation, Wilson in 1979 wrote to congressional representative Robert Lagomarsino: "I believe the elimination of the use of motor vehicles of any kind...would encourage the condor to again use both Hi Mountain & Machesna nesting sites."
Wilson also worked closely with Harold Miossi on creation of the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area, a goal of the Sierra Club chapter since the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wilderness status was being thwarted by the district's congressional representative, Burton Talcott, and by the U.S. Forest Service, which argued that only "experts and bureaucrats should determine what tracts should be saved." When Alan Cranston was elected to the U.S. Senate from California in 1968, the plan regained momentum.
Wilson and Miossi drafted the legal description of the 22,250-acre tract, which Cranston introduced in December 1971. Wilson, Miossi, and San Luis Obispo Mayor Ken Schwartz testified several times in Washington, D.C., for passage of the bill, but Talcott continued to oppose it. Eventually, the proposed name was changed from "Lopez" to "Santa Lucia," but it was not until Leon Panetta defeated Talcott for the district's congressional seat in 1976 that the SB 3027 succeeded. In 1978, Congress designated the Santa Lucia in central California and the Rogue River in Oregon as the first Bureau of Land Management wilderness areas, which President Jimmy Carter signed.
After the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area was finally created, Wilson believed that access to the area for hiking could be improved. Wilson successfully petitioned the Forest Service to create a trail from Highway 101 to the new wilderness area. He talked his son-in-law into donating 100 gallons of gas for the trucks to haul the volunteers up the mountains to break the trail. A plaque commemorating this work is located at the trailhead.
In 1979, Lee Wilson was one of seven people honored nationally with Special Achievement Awards from the Sierra Club, for his work on the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area. Established in 1966, Special Achievement are bestowed on individual Sierra Club members or groups a particular action, campaign, or effort of singular importance to conservation or the Club.
In 1985, the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune honored him with a front-page picture entitled "Man of the Mountain" in the Focus weekend magazine. The Arroyo Grande Rotary Club honored him with a Rotarian Fellow Award for his involvement in their many community projects. He was also recognized for 25 years of perfect attendance. Lee Wilson was the subject of a posthumous resolution from the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors for his 18 years of service on the San Luis Obispo County Water Resources Advisory Committee.
In 1988, Lee and Lillian Wilson celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. On August 31, 1989, Lee Wilson died in Arroyo Grande, California. His three children and seven grandchildren, who share his love of hiking and the outdoors, survived him.
Sources
Wilson family, 2003
Neiburger, Carl, "Man to Match the Mountain: An Album of Portraits of Lee Wilson Taken in the Wilderness He Helped Save," San Luis Obispo County (Calif.) Telegram-Tribune, 24 January 1981
Social Security Administration, Social Security Death Index, Master File. Ancestry.com http://www.ancestry.com, accessed 9 June 2007

Scope and Content Note

The Lee Wilson Collection contains the correspondence, publications, maps, and photographs of environmental activist Lee Wilson of Arroyo Grande, California.
Family members gathered the papers in 1994 for the Environmental Archives of San Luis Obispo County, which were transferred to the repository at Cal Poly by volunteers for the Environmental Archives. During processing, duplicates were recycled, which reduced the collection size to 3.75 linear feet.
Where possible, the provenance, or original organization, of the papers has been preserved. However, in order to simplify access to the collection for researchers, some materials in specific formats and topics were reorganized and refoldered to more accurately reflect their contents.
The provenance, or original organization, of the papers has been preserved for the most part. However, in the years after 1970, the growing volume of material and McMillan's overlapping involvement with different groups lobbying on similar issues created numerous small files. In order to simplify access to the collection for researchers, most materials were refoldered and adhere to McMillan's original subject categories, while some were shifted and renamed to more accurately reflect the contents.
The Lee Wilson Collection is divided into five series:
1. Non-Profit and Government Affiliations, 1963-1988
2. Watchdog and Advocacy Efforts, 1960s-1980s
3. Correspondence, 1956-1980s
4. Visual Media, 1960s-1970s
5. Research Materials, 1959-1985
The Lee Wilson Papers are housed in three Paige boxes, with Series 1– Non-Profit and Government Agency Affiliations and Series 2 – Watchdog and Lobbying Efforts, containing the most extensive and unique portions of the collection, each filling one container.

Funding

A generous gift from Harold Miossi funded the arrangement and description of this collection.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

Subjects

Wilson, Lee, 1904-1989
Environmental protection – California –- San Luis Obispo – Citizen participation
Land use – Environmental aspects – California – San Luis Obispo County – History
McMillan, Ian I., 1905–1991–Correspondence
Natural history – California – San Luis Obispo County
San Luis Obispo County (Calif.) – History
Santa Lucia Wilderness Area
Sierra Club - Santa Lucia Chapter

Genre and Forms of Materials

Correspondence
Newspaper Clippings
Maps
Photographs
Serials

Related Material

Related Collections
Special Collections, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo:
Enrico Bongio Papers, 1952-1993 (MS 124)
Kathleen Goddard Jones Papers, 1933-2001 (MS 119)
Harold Miossi Papers, 1942-1990 (MS 112)
Ian McMillan Papers, 1925-1990 (MS 111)
The Environmental Archives of San Luis Obispo County was founded in the summer of 1992 when environmental activist Harold Miossi invited leaders in local environmental causes to gather and discuss how best to preserve "the letters, writings, photos, publications, and thinking of ... prominent [local] conservationists for present students and for posterity." Miossi further proposed that the archives be established at Cuesta College, as "a fitting repository since the College District embraces all of San Luis Obispo County." Cuesta College president Grace Mitchell approved the project, stating, "Cuesta College is proud to make this contribution to our county's future." The Cuesta College Foundation agreed to sponsor the project, and Miossi contributed the first major gift to the Cuesta College Foundation for the new archives.
The principal mission of the Environmental Archives of San Luis Obispo County is as follows: "To collect, preserve and make available for research the writings, documents, and photographs dealing with the history and development of the environmental movement in San Luis Obispo County." The archives include the papers of five local activists: Harold Miossi, Ian McMillan, Lee Wilson, Enrico Bongio, and Kathleen Goddard Jones.

Container List

 

1. Non-Profit and Government Affiliations 1963-1988

Scope and Content Note

Contains five subseries: A. Non-Profit Agencies; B. Los Padres Interpretive Association; C. Santa Lucia Chapter, Sierra Club; D. Regional Conservation Committees, Sierra Club; and E. Government Agency Records.
 

A. Non-Profit Agencies

Scope and Content Note

Contains records and reports from non-profit agencies in which Lee Wilson was active, arranged alphabetically by agency, from the 1960s-1970s. 4 folders.
Box 1, Folder 1

Conservation Committee, California Native Plant Society, 1970s

Box 1, Folder 2

Conservation Committee, California Native Plant Society, 1980s

Box 1, Folder 3

Reports, California Natural Areas Coordinating Council, 1970s

Box 1, Folder 4

Cuesta College Conservation Advisory Committee 1960s

 

B. Los Padres Interpretive Association

Scope and Content Note

Contains Lee Wilson's records and reports from Los Padres Interpretive Association, arranged alphabetically by record type, 1970s. 4 folders.
Box 1, Folder 5

Board Agendas, Minutes, Annual Reports, Los Padres Interpretive Association 1974-1976

Box 1, Folder 6

Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation, Los Padres Interpretive Association

Box 1, Folder 7

Newsletters, Los Padres Interpretive Association 1975-89

Box 1, Folder 8

Outings, Los Padres Interpretive Association, 1970s, 1980s

 

C. Santa Lucia Chapter, Sierra Club

Scope and Content Note

Contains records and publications of the local chapter of the Sierra Club. Includes materials related to the founding of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club in San Luis Obispo County, 1963-1980. 11 folders.
Box 1, Folder 9

Banquets, Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club

Box 1, Folder 10

Bulletins, Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club

Scope and Content Note

[includes Bulletins transitioning into "Santa Lucia Chapter"]
Box 1, Folder 11

Bylaws and Procedural Manual, Santa Lucia Chapter, Sierra Club 1960s-1980s

Box 1, Folder 12

Correspondence, Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club 1963-68 1980

Box 1, Folder 13

Events (Recreation Roundup), Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club

Box 1, Folder 14

Events (Wildland Education Conference), Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club 1963

Box 1, Folder 15

Finances, Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club 1960s

Box 1, Folder 16

Founding, Santa Lucia Chapter, Sierra Club 1961

Box 1, Folder 17

Membership Committee, Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club

Box 1, Folder 18

Program Committee, Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club

Box 1, Folder 19

Publicity Committee, Santa Lucia Group, Sierra Club

 

D. Regional Conservation Committees, Sierra Club

Scope and Content Note

Contains Lee Wilson's records from regional committees of the Sierra Club, 1965-1980. 6 folders.
Box 1, Folder 20

Southern California Regional Conservation Committee, Sierra Club, 1965-68, 1970s

Box 1, Folder 21

Forest Practices Committee, Southern California Regional Conservation Committee, Sierra Club, 1970s

Box 1, Folder 22

Forest and Wilderness Committee, Southern California Regional Conservation Committee, Sierra Club, 1970s-1980s

Box 1, Folder 23

Joint Northern and Southern California Regional Conservation Committee, Sierra Club

Box 1, Folder 24

Outing Impact Study Team, Southern California Regional Conservation Committee, Sierra Club, 1970s

Box 1, Folder 25

Wilderness Act Workshop, Sierra Club, 1960s-1970s

 

E. Government Agency Records

Scope and Content Note

Contains Lee Wilson's correspondence and records for government agencies, arranged by agency name, 1969-1988. 3 folders.
Box 1, Folder 26

Bureau of Land Management Correspondence, 1970-1988

Box 1, Folder 27

San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission, 1969-1986

Box 1, Folder 28

Water Resources Advisory Committee, San Luis Obispo County, 1960s-1970s

 

2. Watchdog and Advocacy Efforts 1960s-1980s

Scope and Content Note

Contains two subseries: A. San Luis Obispo County Advocacy Efforts and B. California (minus San Luis Obispo County) Advocacy Efforts.
 

A. San Luis Obispo County Activism

Scope and Content Note

Contains correspondence and records relating to Wilson's efforts to research, educate, and effect legislative change on specific issues affecting San Luis Obispo County, including his efforts to secure federal wilderness area protection for Lopez Canyon area, arranged alphabetically by issue, 1960s-1980s. 1 box.
Box 2, Folder 1

Black Mountain Wildlife Project

Box 2, Folder 2

Caliente Mountain Access Trail

Box 2, Folder 3

Cuesta Grade 1967

Box 2, Folder 4

Cypress Mountain

Box 2, Folder 5

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant Opposition

Box 2, Folder 6

Estero Bay

Box 2, Folder 7

Garcia Mountain Wilderness Study

Box 2, Folder 8

Hearst Ranch Development, San Simeon 1960s

Box 2, Folder 9

Laguna Park 1969

Box 2, Folder 10

Land Conservancy Act in San Luis Obispo County

Box 2, Folder 11

Lopez Canyon (Santa Lucia Wilderness Area) Folder 1 of 5

Box 2, Folder 12

Lopez Canyon (Santa Lucia Wilderness Area) Folder 2 of 5

Box 2, Folder 13

Lopez Canyon (became Santa Lucia Wilderness Area) 3 of 5

Box 2, Folder 14

Lopez Canyon (became Santa Lucia Wilderness Area) 4 of 5

Box 2, Folder 15

Lopez Canyon (became Santa Lucia Wilderness Area) 5 of 5

Box 2, Folder 16

Lopez Canyon (became Santa Lucia Wilderness Area) Statements before Public Hearings

Box 2, Folder 17

Los Padres National Forest

Box 2, Folder 18

Los Padres National Forest, Cobblestone Mountain Wilderness Area

Box 2, Folder 19

Los Padres National Forest, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Process/Replies 1981-84

Box 2, Folder 20

Los Padres National Forest Trails

Box 2, Folder 21

Montaña de Oro State Park 1963-1984

Box 2, Folder 22

Morro Bay State Park

Box 2, Folder 23

Nipomo Dunes

Box 2, Folder 24

Nipomo Dunes, Collier Carbon and Chemical Corporation

Box 2, Folder 25

Pacific Gas 8 Electric

Box 2, Folder 26

Peregrine Falcon Preserve

Box 2, Folder 27

Pismo Beach

Box 2, Folder 28

Port San Luis

Box 2, Folder 29

Sargent Cypress Grove, Cuesta Ridge, SLO County

Box 2, Folder 30

Santa Lucia Wilderness Area

 

B. California ex-SLO Advocacy

Scope and Content Note

Contains correspondence and records relating to Wilson's efforts to research, educate, and effect legislative change on specific issues affecting various areas in California, excluding San Luis Obispo County, 1960s-1980s. 1 box.
Box 3, Folder 1

Bodega Bay

Box 3, Folder 2

Endangered American Wilderness Act 1970s

Box 3, Folder 3

Energy Policies and Statements

Box 3, Folder 4

Inyo National Forest

Box 3, Folder 5

Miscellaneous Advocacies

Box 3, Folder 6

Off-road Vehicle Use in State Parks 1970s

Box 3, Folder 7

Pesticides

Box 3, Folder 8

Pinnacles National Monument

Box 3, Folder 9

San Gorgonio Wilderness Area

Box 3, Folder 10

San Joaquin Wilderness Area

Box 3, Folder 11

San Rafael Wilderness Area

Box 3, Folder 12

Ventana Wilderness Area

 

3. Correspondence 1956-1980s

Scope and Content Note

Contains one subseries: A. Correspondence with Local Activists.
 

A. Correspondence with Local Activists

Scope and Content Note

Contains Wilson's correspondence with a variety of local activists, including Kathleen Goddard Jones and Ian McMillan, arranged alphabetically by correspondent name. 7 folders.
Box 3, Folder 13

Eissler, Fred

Box 3, Folder 14

Hanks, Bob

Box 3, Folder 15

Jackson [Goddard Jones], Kathleen

Box 3, Folder 16

McMillan, Ian

Box 3, Folder 17

Miscellaneous Correspondence

Box 3, Folder 18

Re Kathleen Jackson [Goddard Jones] Dispute 1956-1971

Box 3, Folder 19

Re Appointment of Walter Hickel as Secretary of the Interior, 1969

 

4. Visual Media 1960s - 1970s

Scope and Content Note

Contains two subseries: A. Negatives and B. Photographic Prints.
 

A. Negatives

Scope and Content Note

Contains negatives of local areas Wilson made for documentation purposes related to watchdog efforts. 2 folders.
Box 3, Folder 20

Oaks on Highway 101, Atascadero, To Be Cut Down by Road Dept. November 1970

Box 3, Folder 21

Jada Cove, Pinnacles National Monument

 

B. Photographic Prints

Scope and Content Note

Contains photographs of local areas Wilson made for documentation purposes related to watchdog efforts. Also includes few prints of Sierra Club outings in the 1960s and 1970s. 6 folders.
Box 3, Folder 22

Eucalyptus Trees, Pismo Beach State Park

Box 3, Folder 23

Santa Lucia (Lopez) Canyon Wilderness Area

Box 3, Folder 24

Santa Lucia (Lopez) Canyon Wilderness Area

Box 3, Folder 25

Mineral King

Box 3, Folder 26

Outings, Santa Lucia Chapter, Sierra Club, 1960s and 1970s

Box 3, Folder 27

Sargent Cypress Grove, Cuesta Ridge

 

5. Research Materials 1959-1985

Scope and Content Note

Contains one subseries: A. Serial Publications.
 

A. Serial Publications

Scope and Content Note

Contains research resources Wilson used in the course of his advocacy, arranged alphabetically by author/title. Subject areas include local government documents, nuclear power, resource management, PG8E in-house publications, and a broken run of the Sierra Club Bulletin from 1959 through 1963. 1 box.
Box 3, Folder 28

Davis, Betty S. "The Southern Sea Otter Revisited." Reprinted from Pacific Discovery, 30:2, March-April, 1977

Scope and Content Note

pp. 1-13.
Box 3, Folder 29

"Historic and Primary Trail Classification: Concluding Report to the Planning Commission From the November 20, 1986 Public Hearing." [San Luis Obispo, CA]: Resource Management Department and Parks Department, January 1987

Box 3, Folder 30

Laven, John Eugene, "Conservation Conflict, Ombudsman Alternative," unpublished master's thesis [re Sargent Cypress grove], 1970

Box 3, Folder 31

"National Forest Trails: Neglected and Disappearing." Bainbridge Island, WA: National Trails Council June 1985

Box 3, Folder 32

"Nuclear Safeguards Initiative," unpublished manuscript, Los Angeles: Californians for Nuclear Safeguards October 1974

Box 3, Folder 33

PG8E Progress, April 1963 – December 1964

Box 3, Folder 34

PG8E Progress, April 1965 – August 1967

Box 3, Folder 35

PG8E Progress, September 1968-December 1969

Box 3, Folder 36

PG8E Progress, January 1970-October 1971

Box 3, Folder 37

PG8E Progress, May 1972-October 1981

Box 3, Folder 38

Sierra Club Bulletin, October 1959

Box 3, Folder 39

Sierra Club Bulletin, December 1960

Box 3, Folder 40

Sierra Club Bulletin, December 1962

Box 3, Folder 41

Sierra Club Bulletin, December 1963

Box 3, Folder 42

Starr, Walter A., "From Yosemite to Kings Rivers Canyon, unpublished manuscript, undated

Box 3, Folder 43

Steiner, Wesley E., "San Luis Obispo County Tomorrow and Related Matters of Interest," 1966. Unpublished ms. presented before the SLO Regional Planning Conference February 1966

Box 3, Folder 44

Walcott, Francis J., et. al., "Report to the Sierra Club Foundation, the Sierra Club Board of Directors, and the Sierra Club Conservation Department from the Wilderness Classification Study Committee, December, 1967