Our Team

Lea Knutson

Founder and Executive Director

As a native of New Mexico (born and raised in the north valley of Albuquerque) and a 25-year resident and owner of property that spans both the Gallinas and Sapello watersheds, Lea has roots in the local area.  With training in Wildlife Science (B.S. University of Washington) and 18 years of professional experience in wildlife ecology and wildlife habitat management in Washington State, she returned to New Mexico to raise her family in the amazing mountains near Las Vegas.  Lea has a deep love of the land and commitment to restoring and maintaining healthy landscapes for people and wildlife.  Because of that love, she founded the Citizens Ecological Monitoring Team in 2008 (a 501c3 nonprofit) which evolved into the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance in 2010.  Lea also has experience in private business; she is part owner and operator of a 25-year-old, family-owned construction company.  Working with her husband, she does the bookkeeping and office management. 

To contact Lea, email


Patrick Gutierrez

Watershed Restoration Project Manager

Patrick Gutierrez is a native New Mexican, with a background in conservation management ecological research and habitat restoration. His personal affinity with range lands has influenced his deep commitment to a career in natural resources management. Growing up on a cattle ranch in Trujillo, NM, he has experienced first-hand land management challenges that are impacting the Southwest, including the lasting legacy of overgrazing, extended drought, and loss of grassland productivity from erosion problems and juniper encroachment. His interest began early in high school, where he was a member of the Future Farmers of America, and participated in Wildlife Identification, and Landscape Design competitions at the local and state levels. Through his academic career, he has developed an interest in various restoration methods including forest restoration, watershed management, wildlife habitat management, and using fire as a restoration tool. Additionally, he has sought out opportunities to increase hands-on experiences in habitat restoration through several volunteer events with community organizations such as the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation and Impact Outdoors. He is excited for any future opportunities to collaborate with private and public land managers to sustainably manage grasslands, forests and watersheds to contribute towards more resilient ecosystems.

To contact Patrick, email 


Jacob Erickson

PR Director/Videographer

Jacob Erickson is native to the region, having been born and raised in Las Vegas, NM. He received his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Audio/Video from New Mexico Highlands University, and his Masters in the Media Arts and Cultural Technology department at NMHU, in interactive multi-media exhibition design. He’s spent the majority of his academic career interviewing people and telling their stories; a WWII interview project, Los Alamos oral history interview project, Makerspace interview project, Segesser Hide Documentary, and an IRES cross-departmental research experience in the Czech Republic. Jacob Erickson uses his skills in media to inform people through educational videos, promos which highlight important work and solicit donations, and utilizes a vast array of multimedia production capabilities with which to better tell Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance’s story.

To contact Jacob, e-mail at


Renee Hernandez

Watershed Restoration Project Manager

Renee Hernandez is a native New Mexican born and raised in Santa Fe. She has a
background in education with an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She moved to Las Vegas in 2018 and graduated from New Mexico Highlands University with a bachelor’s degree in Conservation Management with a minor in Forest Management in the spring of 2020. During her time at NMHU, she obtained a work study position in the greenhouse laboratory. She also participated in two internships, one at John T. Harrington Forestry Research Center and the other at Hermits Peak Watershed Alliance. This was where she discovered her interests in field work, lab work, assisting with research and working with landowners. Working for Hermits Peak Watershed Alliance has given her the opportunity to help contribute to the restoration and sustainability of New Mexico’s natural resources. Renee grew up going camping and fishing with her family as a child across Northern New Mexico where her passion for the outdoors began. She believes that it is important to educate both the youth and the public on restorative sustainable behaviors to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy our state’s natural resources for years to come.

Contact Renee, e-mail


Sandy Miller

PR and Fundraising

Sandy is a farmer and educator based in Las Vegas, NM. There she has a small farm where she grows vegetables and herbs, raises chickens, plants trees and works to restore and build healthy soil. Her background and passion is in education, specifically in sharing knowledge of how to live and work with the land with others. She is excited to help Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance with PR and fundraising, and to share invaluable information about how to help restore our soil and water with the community.

To contact Sandy, e-mail at


Nicholas Maurer

Watershed Restoration Project Manager

Nick Maurer is a native Ohioan. He has a background in conservation biology and ecological management. Nick has worked on several vegetation and wildlife projects across the United States for the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management. Most recently, he worked as an Ecological Analyst for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Nick is currently working on finishing his master’s in biology at New Mexico Highlands University, where he is studying snake habitat usage.

Contact Nicholas Maurer, e-mail


Our Board of Directors

(Pictured in Photo, left to right: Natalia Shaw, Lea Knutson, John Goodwin, Mark Gillingham, Wendy Melgin, Sarah Corey-Reeves)

Current Board Members

John Goodwin, Mary Shaw, Wendy Melgin, Sarah Corey-Reeves, Natalia Shaw

Past Board Members

Mark Gillingham, Ben Gillock, Dr. Edward Martinez, Josh Miner, Shantini Rmakrishnan, Deanna Einspahr, Brian Miller, Julie Tsatsaros, Tomas Benavidez, Steve Reichart

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