Harold Miossi Papers, MS 112
This collection contains the 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.
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- Title: Harold Miossi Papers, 1942–1990 (bulk 1975–1990)
- Collection Number: MS 112
- Creator: Miossi, Harold James, 1922–2006
- Extent: 11 Paige boxes; 3 flat files
- Language: English
- On deposit from:
- The Environmental Archives of San Luis Obispo County
- PO Box 8106
- San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-8106
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 ne ighbors 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
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:
- Professional Papers
- Government Documents
- 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 t opics 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.