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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: Ian McMillan Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1925-1990,
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1960-1990)
    Collection number: MS 111
    Creator: McMillan, Ian Irving, 1905-1991
    Extent: 26 Paige boxes, 32 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 naturalist and environmental activist Ian McMillan, including personal and professional papers, correspondence, government documents, field notes, manuscripts, galleys, publications, and maps. Materials on his environmental advocacy efforts, affiliations with a number of wildlife and environmental organizations, and McMillan's research on California condors are included in the collection.


    Donated by his heirs and family members, Ian McMillan'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

    Ian McMillan Papers, San Luis Obispo County Environmental Archives, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.


    The following biographical sketch was found in Mr. McMillan's papers:
    Ian McMillan, a native of eastern San Luis Obispo County, California, with a lifetime of experience as a grain and cattle grower, is also an active long-standing conservationist. From studies of natural history of his region he has written a book on the California condor and various articles on other matters of wildlife conservation. The Current Status and Welfare of the California Condor, by Alden Miller, Ian McMillan, and Eben McMillan, was the forerunner to McMillan's later condor writings. He is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, a member of the California Parks and Recreation Commission, and belongs to a number of other conservation organizations including the Cooper Ornithological Society, National Audubon Society, and the Cholame Township Sportsmen's Association. In recent years he has carried out various special assignments as a field observer and reporter for the National Defenders of Wildlife.
    Ian Irving McMillan was born on the family ranch outside Cholame, San Luis Obispo County, California, on November 15, 1905. Ian McMillan's grandparents and their seven adult children took up adjoining homesteads in a canyon among the open rolling hills near the little settlement of Starkey, now known as Shandon, in 1885. Ian's father, Alexander, married the local schoolteacher, Mary Harte, in 1894. They raised a family of five boys and two girls on their ranch in McMillan Canyon.
    Ian's formative years were ones of economic hardship. Bare subsistence was the common state among those early settlers. Dedication to community and church was Alex McMillan's legacy to his family and neighbors. His reputation won him a seat in the California Assembly in 1922.
    While in the eighth grade Ian left school to help his father to plant the wheat crop; he never returned. Ian was a sack sewer on his dad's combine harvester pulled by a team of 33 horses. He broke colts for the neighboring ranchers and entered bronc-riding competitions on the local rodeos.
    But the adventures that cast him and his younger brother, Eben, in a mold different from the other of that era, were the bird-egg-collecting excursions each spring with Kelly Truesdale. Kelly was a member of a local pioneering family and also a professional egg collector. They would be gone for weeks at a time shinnying up cliffs and trees, and observing the intricate workings of nature. Kelly's invitation to the McMillan brothers to accompany him was an acknowledgement of the values Mary McMillan passed on to her sons – a profound admiration and respect for the wonders of nature.
    Of his childhood, McMillan's children wrote, "Prior to November of 1934, it can be said that Ian's life, even though adventurous, was one of great hardship with few personal rewards. Ian's mother, a loving mother, a person of artistic talent with a sensitive awareness of nature was, early in Ian's childhood, unable to cope with the daily struggles of domestic responsibility. Ian's father lost his home and land to those of different principles and his wife to mental illness. Alexander McMillan died in despair."
    In 1934 Ian married May Reed and his life changed. His children wrote, "May was his secretary, typing and retyping everything he wrote. She fed and entertained the many visitors who came to exchange views and witness this magnificent area of California. She took responsibility for making certain that all of the needs of their three children, Don, Barbara, and Irv, were fully met. This well organized and hard-working woman allowed Ian the freedom to pursue his interests."
    They bought their ranch in Gillis Canyon in 1936. His children wrote, "Never a man who chased the dollar, when the ranch was owned free and clear, he dedicated his life to the issues of land use, government accountability, wildlife protection, and human ecology. After his marriage, Ian's first priority was getting out of debt, followed by building a modest home and then funding for his children's college educations. Ian had absolutely no interest in owning more land, building bigger houses, owing the newest model shotgun or anything not having essential value. He enjoyed breaking horses and training hunting dogs and proudly displayed their talent to any audience. It can be said that Ian did well not because of how much he had, but in how little he needed."
    The National Audubon Society commissioned Ian and Eben to study the decline of condors in 1968. The years of research resulted in publication of Ian McMillan's Man and the California Condor: The Embattled History and Uncertain Future of North America's Largest Free-Living Bird (New York: Dutton, 1968).
    McMillan was also campaigned against the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. McMillan worked with other local environmentalists to establish the Santa Lucia Wilderness Area and to preserve Morro Rock in Morro Bay. McMillan ardently opposed the use of Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to poison predators threatening livestock. In the 1976, McMillan told Earth Advocate , "I have grown concerned to the point of bitterness and humiliation at the consistent and almost fanatical opposition of organized agriculture to practically every effort toward protecting this rural, agricultural county from being destroyed by excessive, ill-advised non-agricultural development." McMillan campaigned against changes to the Williamson Land Conservation act, which provides for agricultural subsidies to farmers.
    Ian McMillan died of congestive heart failure at the age of 85 on February 21, 1991 in Templeton, California.
    Groshong, Warren, "Naturalist Ian McMillan Dies," San Luis Obispo County (Calif.) Telegram-Tribune, 25 Feb. 1991
    McMillan family, 1994
    Social Security Death Index
    U.S. Census, 1910, 1920

    Scope and Content Note

    This collection contains the extant professional papers of naturalist, environmental activist, and author Ian McMillan of eastern San Luis Obispo County, California.
    When originally appraised in September 1992, the McMillan materials consisted of an estimated 81 linear feet, including visual media. During processing, efforts were made to return personal items to the family and to eliminate duplicates, damaged materials, and items not directly related to McMillan and environmental activism, which reduced the collection size to 32.1 linear feet.
    Family members gathered the papers in 1994 for the Cuesta College Environmental Archives from the storage places on the McMillan family ranch, where some of the records had sustained weather and rodent damage. Visual materials, including photographic prints, slides and negatives were not donated with the original gift and remain at the McMillan ranch.
    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 collection is divided into four series:
    1. Personal and Professional Papers
    2. Watchdog Efforts
    3. Non-Profit Agency Affiliations
    4. Research Materials
    The Ian McMillan Papers are housed in 26 Paige boxes, with Series 1 Personal and Professional Papers, and Series 2 Watchdog Efforts containing the most extensive and unique portions of the collection, each filling 10 boxes.
    Series 1. Subseries D. contains manuscripts, correspondence, field studies, photographs, and research material relating to McMillan's book, Man and the California Condor, located in. Also included are decades of McMillan's field notes and survey data on condors, long-term correspondence on condors with naturalists Aldo and Starker Leopold, soil scientist William A. Albrecht, author and activist W.H. Ferry, and New York Times theater critic Brooks Atkinson.
    Series 2. Watchdog Efforts contain records documenting McMillan's efforts to research, educate, and effect legislative change on specific issues, such as nuclear power, sustainable agriculture, Compound 1080 poison, endangered species, and wildlife management. This series consists of correspondence, legal documents and reports, research data, press releases, photographs, slides, and maps. Subseries C, D, and E of this series contain materials from McMillan's tenure with the California Parks and Recreation Commission and are comprised of correspondence, subject files, and administrative documents such as bylaws, minutes, and agendas.
    Also included in Series 2 are McMillan's testimony before various local, state, and national political bodies, including the United States Congress on the threats to the Golden Eagle, as well as correspondence with numerous public officials, including California Governors Earl Warren and Ronald Reagan.


    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.


    McMillan, Ian I., 1905–1991
    Miossi, Harold, 1922–2006 – Correspondence
    Avenales Wildlife Preserve
    Birds – California – San Luis Obispo County
    Birds, Protection of – California – San Luis Obispo County
    California condor
    Cholame Township Sportsmen's Association
    Compound 1080
    Conservationists – California – Biography
    Defenders of Wildlife
    Diablo Canyon Nuclear Powerplant (Calif.) – History
    Land use – Environmental aspects – California – San Luis Obispo County – History
    Hunting dogs
    McMillan, Eben L., 1907–1998
    McMillan Family – Shandon (Calif.) – History
    McMillan, Ian I., 1905–1991 – Correspondence
    Natural history – California – San Luis Obispo County
    Ranching – California – San Luis Obispo County – History
    Ranchers – California – San Luis Obispo County – Biography
    Shandon (Calif.) – History
    San Luis Obispo County (Calif.) – History
    San Luis Obispo County (Calif.) – Biography
    Williamson Act Program (Calif.)

    Genre and Forms of Materials

    Field notes
    Research notes
    Brand books
    Government documents
    Newspaper clippings

    Related Material

    Materials Cataloged Separately
    Darlington, David. In Condor Country (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987).
    McMillan, Ian, Man and the California Condor: The Embattled History and Uncertain Future of North America's Largest Free-Living Bird (New York: Dutton, 1968).
    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)
    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.