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Harold Miossi Papers
MS 112  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Provenance
  • Restrictions on Access
  • Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content Note
  • Funding
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Harold Miossi Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1942-1990
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1975-1990)
    Collection number: MS 112
    Creator: Miossi, Harold James, 1922-2006
    Extent: 11 Paige boxes; 3 flat files

    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 California native and environmental activist Harold Miossi, containing extensive correspondence with other environmentalists, government employees, elected officials, and leaders of non–profit environmental groups, legal proceedings, government documents, photographic prints, maps, and text and notes for many of Miossi's statements at public hearings, donated by Harold Miossi in 1994.


    Harold Miossi donated his papers to the Environmental Archives of San Luis Obispo County, which was he founded at Cuesta College in the summer of 1992. 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

    The materials from this collection are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. 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.
    For use other than private study, scholarship, or research, including permission to reproduce, publish, broadcast, exhibit, and/or quote from this collection, researchers must submit a written request and obtain permission from Special Collections as the owner of the physical collection. Researchers should also consult with an appropriate staff member regarding specific literary or other intellectual property rights pertaining to this collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for any use of the materials. Permission to reproduce, publish, broadcast, or exhibit is granted by separate licensing agreement on a fee basis.

    Preferred Citation

    Harold Miossi Papers, San Luis Obispo County Environmental Archives, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.


    Harold Miossi was born on April 20, 1922, at the family–owned La Cuesta Ranch in Cuesta Canyon immediately north of San Luis Obispo, California. His four grandparents emigrated from Canton Ticino, Switzerland (near Locarno, Italy), between 1864 and 1870, settling in San Luis Obispo County as dairy farmers. Miossi's parents were both born in San Luis Obispo County: his father, Bernard Miossi, was born on a ranch near Pismo Beach and his mother, Vera Gnesa Miossi, was born on a ranch in Green Valley near Cambria. He had one brother, Bernard, who headed the biological science department of Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco; he retired in 1993 after 53 years teaching there.
    Miossi attended San Luis Obispo public schools, graduating in 1939 from San Luis Obispo High, where he was a California Scholarship Federation seal bearer and elected to Alpha Gamma Sigma and Beta Gamma Sigma. In 1941 he graduated from San Luis Obispo Junior College, which then had a common campus with the high school, with an A.A. degree. Miossi was awarded two scholarships to attend University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in economics, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1943.
    Miossi soon returned to the family ranch to assist in its operation, only to be placed in charge when his father drowned in a fishing accident a year later. He continued to operate the cattle ranch until 1960, when he was appointed to the position of Inheritance Tax Appraiser for San Luis Obispo County by then State Controller Alan Cranston. When he retired in the late 1990s as California Probate Referee for San Luis Obispo County, he had served five State Controllers of both political parties.
    A firm believer that individuals shape the world in which they live, Miossi was an active community leader. His activities included the county Grand Jury, the Farm Bureau, the Knights of Columbus, the Democratic Central Committee, the Montana de Oro Advisory Committee, the Sierra Club, Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation district board, as well as many city and county advisory committees, usually in the planning or environmental fields.
    In 1960, he was drawn more and more to environmental activism. His work with the Montaña de Oro State Park Advisory Committee – the first such body in the state – began after his appointment by William Penn Mott, then Director of the State Department of Beaches and Parks, and later to become director of the National Parks Service. This assignment brought him into a close working relationship with conservationist and condor activist Ian McMillan; together they crafted a master plan to keep Montaña de Oro in its natural state, and thwarted efforts to permit off–road vehicular use.
    Later in the 1960s, Miossi, McMillan, Dr. Robert Hoover, and Martin Litton fought within and without the Sierra Club against construction of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and testified at a Public Utilities Commission hearing to prevent the devastation to surrounding countryside caused by erection of the PG&E power transmission lines. Other activities involved battling the U.S. Forest Service to prevent clear-cutting of the Sargent Cypress grove on west Cuesta Ridge, which was aided U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.
    Miossi was most proud of his effort to prevent the "burying of Cuesta Canyon alive" with an eight–lane freeway, a feat that McMillan later described "as the greatest conservation achievement so far in the history of San Luis Obispo County." The Miossi papers included documents related to this effort. What started as a lonely battle with Miossi opposing Caltrans ended as a concerted effort of adherents from all areas of the community. Pressures were brought to bear statewide – from articles in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Sunset magazine, an undertaking of gigantic proportions that could well serve as a syllabus for coalition building. Mary Barnett, in her 1980 California Today piece entitled "How to Beat Mr. Big," wrote, "When Miossi undertook his fight, it was a lonely one against what seemed great odds. But he had faith in the justice of his stand, and in the democratic process, in his friends and neighbors and in their good sense and love of the land. If faith can move mountains, it can also sometimes keep them where they are."
    When Miossi became the second chair of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, a primary goal was the creation of the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area, a project that the chapter had been working for 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, who used the argument that only "experts and bureaucrats should determine what tracts should be saved." But when Alan Cranston was elected to the U.S. Senate from California in 1968, Miossi redoubled his efforts. Cranston sent his staff headed by Roy Greenaway, another friend of long standing, to tour Lopez Canyon, part of the proposed Wilderness Area. On seeing the dramatic beauty of the canyon, Greenaway at the end said, "Write the bill! Alan will introduce it!" Miossi and Lee Wilson, a former chair of the Santa Lucia Chapter, drafted the legal description of the 22,250–acre tract, which Cranston introduced in December 1971, called Senate Bill 3027 for Lopez Wilderness. But the opposition from Talcott continued and successfully thwarted enactment. The name was changed from "Lopez" to "Santa Lucia Wilderness" after the name of the mountain range. However, it was not until Leon Panetta defeated Talcott for the district's congressional seat in 1976 that the area was incorporated with other wilderness proposals, and was passed and signed by President Carter in 1978.
    Descendants of the Gnesa family, Miossi's mother's relatives, contributed 110 acres of their Bishop Peak Dairy ranch as permanent open space to the California State Park System. It was the family's hope that this would stimulate owners of the other Morros to contribute to assure their permanent preservation as open space; unfortunately, their generosity has not yet been matched. The only stipulation to the gift was a that a plaque been placed on the property, which is inscribed as follows:
    This Peak is given to the People of this Community by Lena Negranti, Vera Miossi, Hilda Giacomazzi and Josephine Johnson, in memory of and in tribute to their parents, James and Sofia Giorgi–Gnesa, who in 1870 as youths emigrated from Canton Ticino, Switzerland, settled in this County, raised a family, prospered, and contributed to the betterment of this Community.
    Harold Miossi died at La Cuesta Ranch on November 8, 2006.
    Harold Miossi, 1994
    "Harold James Miossi" [obituary], San Luis Obispo Tribune, 11 Nov 2006.
    Ancestry.com http://www.ancestry.com, accessed 15 Sep 2007

    Scope and Content Note

    The collection contains the extant papers of California native and environmental activist Harold Miossi. The collection contains extensive correspondence with other environmentalists, government employees, elected officials, and leaders of non–profit environmental groups; legal proceedings, government documents, including drafts and final reports; photographic prints; maps; and monographs; serials; local, state, and federal government documents; as well as text and notes for many of Miossi's statements at public hearings.
    A local government document on the Central Coast shoreline from 1942 is the earliest piece in the collection; the most recent holdings in the collection are correspondence from the early 1990s. The bulk of the material in this collection extends from the mid–1970s through the late 1980s.
    The collection is organized into five series:
    1. Professional Papers
    2. Monographs
    3. Government Documents
    4. Articles
    5. Visual Materials
    Significant materials found in the Personal Papers record group include legal proceedings against Miossi and then County Supervisor Richard Kresja regarding the Oak Shores real estate development near Lake Nacimiento, California; Miossi's years of work to establish the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area in San Luis Obispo County; his tenure on the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District; his efforts battling the State Highway Commission's plans for Cuesta Grade; the fight against Pacific Gas & Electric regarding placement of transmission lines; and his work on the Open Space/Agricultural Liaison for the county's Land Use Plan. In addition, there is a combined box of Miossi's papers, correspondence and research on various other environmental issues from the past thirty years. Researchers should note that monographs, serials, and government documents relating to the specific subjects outlined in the Personal Papers records group are filed with those subjects; printed publications on other topics are found in Series 2, 3, and 4, arranged alphabetically by author or government agency. Geographical locations noted in this guide are in California unless noted otherwise.


    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.


    Miossi, Harold, 1922-2006
    Conservationists – California – Biography
    Diablo Canyon Nuclear Powerplant (Calif.) – History
    Environmental protection – California –- San Luis Obispo – Citizen participation
    Land use – Environmental aspects – California – San Luis Obispo County – History
    McMillan, Ian I., 1905-1991 – Correspondence
    Miossi Family – San Luis Obispo (Calif.) – History – La Cuesta Ranch
    Miossi, Harold, 1922 –2006 – Correspondence
    Montana de Oro State Park Advisory Committee
    Ranchers – California – San Luis Obispo County – Biography
    San Luis Obispo County (Calif.) – History
    San Luis Obispo County (Calif.) – Biography
    Santa Lucia Wilderness (Calif.)
    Sierra Club - Santa Lucia Chapter
    Williamson Act Program (Calif.)

    Genre and Forms of Materials

    Visual media

    Related Material

    Materials Cataloged Separately
    Darlington, David. In Condor Country, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987
    Related Collections
    Special Collections, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo:
    Enrico Bongio Papers, 1952-1993 (MS 124)
    Kathleen Goddard Jones Papers, 1933-2001 (MS 119)
    Ian McMillan Papers, 1925-1990 (MS 111)
    Lee Wilson Papers, 1956-1989 (MS 113)
    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.