Ian McMillan Papers, MS 111
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