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A History of the Center

How did the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center come to be? How was the land used by people before it was established? Read this history written by volunteer Michael Cox in 2014.

Students participating in outdoor education program at the SMNHC in the late 1960s.


Introduction to the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center history.

IntroductionChildren on trail in 1960s

The Sandia Mountain Natural History Center is an ecological education facility in Cedar Crest, New Mexico, operated jointly by the Albuquerque Public Schools and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.  Included on its 128 acres are buildings for classrooms, headquarters, and a caretaker residence.  Its true classrooms, however, are the miles of trail weaving across the hills and canyons of the property. Thousands of students a year discover the beauty of nature and the essential concepts of ecology on daily tours along those trails. 

This history attempts to trace the history of the facility and the land on which it is located.  There are few direct records on the land before its establishment as an educational facility in the 1960s because it was undeveloped land.  Therefore we must look at the history of the surrounding east mountain area for information about the people that have lived there and the changes that have occurred on the land. It will also be noted that gaps exist in the Center records over the years since it was opened.

Native American Beginnings

Learn of the long history of indigenous people in the Sandia mountains.

Native American BeginningsNative building site at Mud Spring

The oldest archeological evidence, at Sandia Cave, is located approximately nine miles north of the Center land in Los Huertas Canyon. Folsom points found there indicate that prehistoric man hunted in the east mountains between 8700 and 8500 BC.  Based on the archeological evidence, thousands of years passed before the first permanent communities, the pueblos, were established early in the 13th century. Indications are however, that nomadic Native Americans, probably Apaches, hunted and occasionally grew crops on a limited basis in the area surrounding the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center in the centuries just before the Puebloans arrived. 

 The first year-round residents were the Pueblo Indians who established a large network of pueblos along the eastern slopes of the Sandia and Manzano mountains, stretching from Paako in the north to Gran Quivera in the south. The San Antonio Pueblo, only 1.5 miles south of the center, was probably first built around the same time as the nearby Tijeras Pueblo; building materials there were carbon dated to 1313 A.D.  The pueblos flourished and grew in population through about 1360, when the populations began to decline, most likely as a result of Apache raids; in any event, the pueblos were eventually abandoned in 1415.  During the prosperous years, scattered small settlements like the ones on and near the center were established near the large pueblos. The “Indian Ruins” noted on old maps near the stock pond are typical of such small settlements: located in a transitional vegetation zone, near a water source, and between 6200 and 6800 feet in elevation.   

The Mud Spring ruin, found just over the Center’s Boundary on Forest Service land at 7205 feet elevation, may be from a slightly later period. Based on pottery shards found there, archeologists believe the site was occupied between 1475 and 1525, some years after the larger pueblos in the area were abandoned.  The two room (and possibly two story) structure was constructed of local sandstone and limestone and was most likely used as a permanent, possibly seasonal home and base for raising crops nearby; a broken matate (or mealing stone) indicates that corn was cultivated.   

The large pueblos, including San Antonio, lay abandoned by 1415, but Apache, Comanche and Ute continued to hunt in the area around the center.   Even before the village of Albuquerque was founded in 1706, the Apaches were mounting raids on the Spanish settlers from Tijeras Canyon, then known as Cañon de Carnue.  In 1704, General Diego de Vargas led a campaign against the raiders camped in the canyon, but they simply faded away into the surrounding hills.

Spanish Land Grants

Learn about the Spanish settlers who came to the area in the 1700s.

h2>Spanish Land Grants

Map of towns and key historical sites around SMNHCAs the Spanish population grew, the raids by the Apaches, known as the Faraones band, become more of a problem and finally, in 1763, Governor Tomás Vélez Cachupin approved a land grant for 19 families in Tijeras Canyon hoping to provide a buffer between the raiders and the valley settlements. In the grant, called San Miguel de Laredo, the settlers built a small village near present day Carnuel, about five miles southwest of the present day Center site. They cultivated wheat, corn, beans, chile, and tobacco; however crop yields were low due to a lack of reliable water and poor soil.

Indians routinely raided the village and preyed on the villagers when they hunted in the surrounding area, leading the Alcalde (the Mayor) of Albuquerque to declare a moratorium on hunting. Starvation set in and some villagers were caught rustling cattle from nearby Albuquerque ranches to survive. In October of 1770, an attack on the village by an unknown Apache band forced the settlers to flee to Albuquerque. Then Governor, Pedro Fermin de Mendinueta ordered them to return in the spring, but an effort to retake the village in April 1771 was unsuccessful, and the land grant was formally abandoned and dissolved. After dissolution of the grant, the villagers were ordered to return to raze the village they had built only eight years before. This grant may have included the Center property, but because the grant did not survive, its boundaries were never firmly established.

A second land grant was established in 1819 by Governor Facundo Melgares. This new land grant, called Cañon de Carnue consisted of two villages; San Miguel de Carnue, located in Tijeras Canyon and San Antonio de Padua, which was built at the site of the abandoned San Antonio Pueblo. This grant clearly included the Center property: the northern boundary was set at “El Bardo,” the highest ridge crossed by present day Highway 14 at Ridge Drive; the western boundary was the top of the Sandias. The two villages initially struggled: Indian attacks continued and harvests were poor: of the 22 original settlers, 15 had left by 1820. Those who remained planted orchards of apple, peach, plum and apricot trees; they relied on grazing livestock, particularly goats and sheep. Archeological evidence indicates that hunting provided a steady diet of rabbit and turkey, supplemented by the occasional foray to the plains for bison.

United States and New Mexico

Land transfers between the Federal government and State of New Mexico.

United States and New MexicoMedallion tree near Mud Spring: Custer's Last Stand tree. GD ~1876. #130.

In 1871, the grantees applied for recognition of the grant by the United States government. The grant was officially recognized, but in the 1886 survey by Surveyor General George Julian, the northern boundary was set at the ruins of San Antonio Pueblo. This was far less than the 90,000 acres claimed by the grantees.  Pablo Crespin, representing all of the grant families, filed suit in the United States Court; in 1897, the Court formally recognized only 2000 acres, mostly canyon bottom land.  The disputed area, not in the recognized boundaries of the grant, included the land on which the Center now sits.  

The land surrounding and containing the Center property was subdivided in 1882 but remained uninhabited; it was surveyed in 1901 and patented to the federal government in 1903.  Available land brought more people and more hunting; by the 1900’s large mammals in the Sandias began to disappear, including, elk, gray wolf, and Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep, although elk are occasionally sighted as they pass through.  On June 20, 1910 the Center land was transferred to the then Territory of New Mexico under the jurisdiction of the state land office.  The lots were then available for sale or for lease as grazing allotments. An individual started the process to buy the property in 1930, but the sale was cancelled in 1934. No leases were sought or granted until the Albuquerque Public Schools requested a lease for educational purposes in 1950.

The area to the west of the present day center remained in federal hands and was established as the Manzano Forest Preserve in 1906; it was renamed the Manzano National Forest in 1907 and became part of the Cibola National Forest in 1931. After World War I, residents of San Antonio and other nearby villages became increasingly dependent on grazing sheep and goats for a living, gradually increasing the size of their herds. It was estimated that 6000 goats grazed in Las Huertas Canyon, north of the Center property.

 Concerns about overgrazing led to a ban on all high altitude grazing by the Forest Service in 1931, ending the use of the lush grass growing in the high meadows of the Sandias.  The locals turned more to other means of making a living. During prohibition, San Antonio was well known as a center of moonshine production. There were lime kilns, a gypsum mine and even a tiny coal mine in operation nearby.  Trees were felled with axes, drug out of the forest by horses and used for firewood and construction.  This continued at least until the 1960s. The weathered stumps of trees felled by hand axes can still be seen scatted around the property, especially on or near trails.

Continued Development

The area continued to be developed during the pre-war years.  In 1927 the Forest Service completed the road to Sandia Crest.  Between 1933 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked on projects throughout the east mountains. From a large camp at Sandia Park near today’s Tinkertown Museum, the CCC built roads and campgrounds, including Cienega, Sulphur and Doc Long picnic grounds.  They also did extensive work on water and erosion projects, building check dams and channeling streams. The CCC may have begun the placementof the “tree medallions”.  These mysterious medallions purport to date the trees on which they appear- the two near Mud Spring indicate “Custer’s Last Stand, 1876”  and “1st UNM Classes, 1892’; and are found on trees throughout the Sandias. Some of the medallions also show a tree core date of 1938-which suggests they were placed during the CCC tenure in the area.  

The CCC opened the Sandias to more recreational use- not just through the construction of picnic grounds, but also roads and trails, and in 1936 they cleared land for the first primitive ski area at the Tree Springs trailhead.  Others soon saw the recreation opportunity of mountains so close to Albuquerque.  The forties saw the return of one of the most popular species of wildlife at the center: the Abert Squirrel. It disappeared around the turn of the century, and was re-introduced from other New Mexico mountains in 1940 by Homer Pickens, former Director of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department.  Around this same time, 1939-1940, Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep were reintroduced to the Sandias; they flourished through the 1960s but their numbers declined after that, and the last Rocky Mountain Bighorn was sighted in 1992.

Albuquerque Public Schools

The creation of the SMNHC by Albuquerque Public Schools.

Albuquerque Public Schools

SMNHC site undeveloped: 1967 (Jack Meloy)John Milne, long time Superintendent of the Albuquerque Public Schools, foresaw the growth of Albuquerque and acquired property for future schools all over the county. In 1950, his attention turned to the east mountains, specifically the center property, searching for a recreation area for Albuquerque school children.  The outdoor recreation plan included the opening in 1954 of an APS summer camp in the Jemez Mountains near Fenton Lake, eventually known as Camp Gallagher, and a west slope site in the foothills that was never realized. 

The Center property was appraised in February of 1950 for the Albuquerque Public School Board.  It indicated that the 138 acre property was best suited for grazing, had no water or structures and set its value at $5.00 per acre. In 1951, all livestock was removed from National Forest land, which officially ended grazing of any kind on the federal land near the center.

APS applied for an Institutional Lease (Lease No. S-9414) for the property on January 26, 1950- for “grazing purposes only”; the lease was granted on February 15, 1950 at a cost of $22.75.  A second lease for Lots 4,6,7 Section 2, Township 10N Range  5E, 138.48 acres (Lease No. M-3256) for the same property was issued on January 3, 1951 to APS for $25.00 to last until December 1975 for the same property, but this lease was for “school purposes only, namely the erection of school buildings, playgrounds and other structures”. 

 Two years later, the property was purchased outright by APS on March 11, 1953 (Patent for State Land No. 2287).  At that point the land had no roads, power or water.  On April 2, 1959, Bernalillo County built a road to the property. An easement for electric and telephone line to cross the property was granted in 1963. In 1966, a land swap with George and Gene Hinkle consolidated the property into its present shape.

Outdoor Education ProgrammingJohn Cox with student, 1967

In 1966, John Cox, a physical education teacher at Grant Junior High, obtained a federal grant of $46,000 to create an outdoor education program for students.  Granted under authority of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title III, the grant was to fund “Projects for Advancement of Creativity on Education.”  Cox, a summer Park Service ranger in the Grand Canyon, was in charge of the grant and development of the site; he originally envisioned the center as a residential overnight facility in which classes would spend a full week. He applied for a well permit and began doing tours in a limited way on the property in the fall of 1966, but it quickly became apparent that more instructors were needed.  

Jack Meloy conducting a tour in 1967 or '68

Jack Meloy, a science teacher at Jefferson Junior High, was hired in the spring of 1967. On April 27, 1967, the first full day tours of the “Outdoor Education Center” by school children began. At that time the site included “just nature and two chemical toilets” according to Cox. During the summer of 1967, with the help of the Neighborhood Youth Corp, trails were built and picnic tables assembled. 

By the fall of 1967 a third instructor, Vera Snyder, had joined the program. By an odd coincidence, Miss Snyder, also an APS teacher, had taken a summer class to the property prior to 1966.  Miss Snyder, based on her experience in field anthropology, noticed several Indian ruins in the area, including the one near Mud Springs and two others in the meadows on the property.  She recognized the meadow sites, little more than disturbed earth and scattered pot shards, as ruins. She sometimes included an archeological segment in the tours she conducted, in which the children would practice finding shards and arrow heads on the ruin sites. One of the ruins was included on an old map near the stock pond.  

Vera Snyder teaching students in May 1968

The fall of 1967 also saw the drilling of a water well. In those early days the center instructors visited each classroom the week before the scheduled tour and presented a slide show consisting of photos taken at the center, based on a theme, like geology, weather, or plants.  During the tour, the same topics would be covered.  Some parents, especially those who lived far from the mountains, were afraid to allow their children to visit, so the center instructors attended  PTA meetings to assure the families it would be safe and would sometime meet the students at the school and ride the bus to the site with the class for reassurance. The instructors provided tours to all grade levels before settling on sixth grade, which was the terminal grade in elementary schools at the time. Private parochial schools also sent classes for tours. Tours were conducted during the entire school year; sometimes the county plowed snow off the road so the school buses could reach the site. If they couldn’t, the classes were taken to La Cueva Canyon on the west side of the Sandias and the tours were conducted there.  Snow shoes were purchased for the children so tours could be done in the snow. 

Within the first full school year of operation (1967-1968), some 8,000 students visited the Center; In addition, the site was improved: four World War II barracks and a small residence were trucked in from Kirtland Air Force base. The two barracks on the northwest side were converted into Natural History and Ecology Museums; while the two on the south side became classrooms and bathrooms. The residence building became the caretaker’s cottage (known as the casita), in which John Cox’s mother lived for many years. 

Children departing bus at SMNHC in the 1960s

In the summer of 1968, the Neighborhood Youth Corp once again improved the trails, but a huge flood one night washed away the trails and much of the road; it also covered the meadow with a thick mud flow.  That winter the Soil Conservation Service proposed a plan to control erosion by terracing the meadow west of the classrooms. The terracing was completed sometime in early 1969. Attendance increased in the1968-69 school year: some ten thousand students participated in education programs. In October 22, 1970, the U.S. Forest Service granted a special use permit to allow trail use and the

SMNHC Barracks, October 1968 (Jack Meloy)


Jack Meloy and Vera Snyder left the program in the spring of 1968: two new teachers,

 Karin Swelling and Tom Parker took their places.  construction of benches at Mud Springs. 

Into the 1970s and '80s

On August 13, 1971, the center, by then known as the  Environmental Education Lab, was  designated a National Environmental Education Landmark by the National Park Service. This was based on its pioneering use of the National Environmental Education Development approach in its curriculum, which emphasized the teaching of “the relationship between man and his environment.”

In 1973, a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency funded a program in which high school students, led by University of New Mexico students, worked on trails and assisted educators on tours one day a week.  Sunday open houses were held to encourage the public to visit the site.  The Jemez camp continued as an integral part of the education plan. In 1975, for example, 600 Albuquerque elementary students attended the week- long camp at a cost of $16 per student.

By 1984, a wildlife survey conducted by students found that the turkey population on the center grounds was shrinking; soon they would disappear completely.  In 1990, the tall ponderosa tree near Paradise Springs died and became “the snag”; it had been struck by lightning some 30 years earlier.  

Crisis and the Museum of Natural History

How the New Mexico Museum of Natural History became part of the SMNHC.

Crisis and the Museum of Natural History

In the spring of 1991, facing an impending budget crisis, the Albuquerque Public School Board proposed eliminating the Sandia Mountain Environmental Education Center (as it was called then) and slashed its budget. 7600 students had been to the center the year before; after the cuts, tours were all but eliminated. John Cox having just retired, the then acting Director, Gwen Ebert, was given a year to find alternative funding or close the center. Beth Dillingham soon joined the center and the search for funding. Gwen Ebert soon left the program while Dillingham continued to look for alternatives. 

Beth Dillingham

 A chance encounter with then Governor Bruce King led to a meeting with State Representative Gary King who championed the cause and enlisted the aid of Ray Powell. Ultimately a plan was adopted under which the state would provide funds to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, which would help operate the center.  APS would retain ownership of the center but the museum would provide operational funds and become a partner in the enterprise. In addition, the mission of the program would be extended to children statewide.  A joint powers agreement to that effect was signed on August 10, 1993 and the center, first named the Natural Resources Education Center, and then renamed the Natural Resources and Wildlife Education Center, was reopened in the fall of that year. Beth Dillingham became Director; she had participated in a tour at the center as a grade school student some 20 years before.

Also in 1993, a statewide explosion in the population of deer mice was linked to the hanta virus. Workers in anti-exposure suits were called in to clear all the center buildings of material which could harbor the mice, which essentially stripped the buildings of all materials, including a large number of photos taken over the years.  Within two years the center would again be renamed, this time as the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center.

As classes from nearby communities began to use the facility, the number of students participating in the program gradually returned to the pre-budget crisis levels.

Reaching Students Statewide

The Center educators began visiting cities throughout New Mexico to bring their Ecology Field Program to students outside of Albuquerque.   In 1996-97, the traveling program educated 800 students in a number of widely spread New Mexico communities including Cibola, Cobre, Jemez Valley, Las Vegas, Magdalena, Pecos, Santa Rosa, Silver City, Socorro, Truth or Consequences, and Vaughn. 

In early 1995, the Center once again faced the threat of budget cuts because the new

Stubbe Center under construction, 1997

 Governor, Gary Johnson, believed the center did not serve enough children outside of Bernalillo County.  In response, the legislature funded a dormitory building so children from around the state could spend the night after travelling. The new building was located on the site of an old storage building, which had been torn down earlier in 1996 when asbestos was discovered during repairs. By the end of 1996 Dillingham had left the center and the new building’s purpose had been changed from dormitory to staff center. It was constructed during the summer of 1997, but problems with the septic system delayed use of the building for several years. Flooding was a problem until landscaping around the structure was completed. 

Museum Management

Kristin Gunckel

A new director, Kristin Gunckel stayed for only two years before Helen Haskell took on the role. She remained for five years as lead teacher and also acted as caretaker, continuing in that post for two years after she left the teaching staff.  In 1997, several new programs were operating, including a field program in which 40 high school students researched ecology; 60 mid-schoolers spent summer nights at the center attending the Student Ecology Research Program; and a partnership to train UNM student teachers began. 

In 1998, the Center received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator’s Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Education. The Award was based on the work of center instructors Julie Hall, Mary Dwyer, Helen Haskell, Kristin Gunckel and Jonathan Conrad. 

Beginning in 1999, a wheelchair accessible trail was added and then lengthened, with sections being added each year until 2004. 

Initiatives in the 2000s

Projects and other changes in the 2000s at the SMNHC.

Initiatives in the 2000s

In 2002, Southwick trail was constructed; named after John Southwick, longtime neighbor and supporter of the center. When he died, in 1997, his ashes had been scattered on his favorite place, the viewpoint atop the BVB trail. Southwick trail was built nearby and in 2004, a plaque was placed on the hill top in his honor.  In the fall of 2002 a tipi was constructed for use during tours, (lodge poles from the tipi can still be found near the headquarters building). 

Paul Mauermann and Helen Haskell

Also in 2004, Helen Haskell left and Paul Mauermann, an educator at the center since 2000, became the Manager. In the summer of 2004, the center was opened to the public for single day events, like “Adventure Day” and “Lunar Lunacy Night.”  With financial assistance from EMNRD and PNM, a solar panel installation was erected in 2004.  That year, new trails were added to allow more school class groups to use the center on a given day.  Rocky Ridge (originally called Sloth Circle) was added, as were Leopold Loop, and Abbey Alley.

Paul Stubbe and Daniel Bush


2004 was the year that saw the return of wild turkeys to the Sandias.  NM Game and Fish captured 22 Merriam turkeys near Chama and released them in the Sandias. They flourished and multiplied. In the winter of 2011, staff members counted 67 turkeys in a flock walking through the compound.  Additional trails, new programs, and outreach all contributed to the gradual rise in the number of individuals participating in Center activities each school year. On October 3rd of 2004, the headquarters building was christened the “Paul Stubbe Center for Environmental Education”, in honor of long time volunteer, Paul Stubbe.  On that same day, the gardens adjacent to the building were dedicated as the “Daniel Bush Gardens”, after another stalwart volunteer and trail builder. He added Southwick, Leopold Loop, Abbey Alley, Dove, and Deer trails to the Center, and improved many other trails.  

New programs were added such as a two day Wilderness First Aid training for educators and staff held at the Center in July 2007. Also that year, 10,000 square feet of piñon-juniper forest were thinned.  

On July 1, 2008, a Forest Health Initiative was started with the assistance of the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District and the N.M. State Forestry Division; eighty acres of the property’s trees were thinned.  The Forest Health Initiative’s goal was to return the forest to a more natural, healthy state.  In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service followed suit by thinning adjacent sections of the forest. 

2008 saw the initiation of an Ecology Research and Monitoring Program in which two sites, each 50 by 100 feet, were intensely studied.  Work on the sites was carried out by students from East Mountain High School and APS’ School on Wheels.  Students from an East Mountain High School biology class also installed game cameras at Mud and Paradise Springs to record wildlife activity.   A ringtail was photographed that year on one of the game cameras; the first confirmation that the species visited the Center area.  

Trail Camera photo of mother black bear with 3 cubs at Paradise spring, July 14, 2008

In the winter of 2010, a dendrochronology project began in which core samples were taken from 100 trees around the center property to determine the age of the trees. In summer 2011, a shade structure/bird blind was built in the meadow which included a water hole fed by a rain water collector.  

With funding from Sandia National Labs and the Albert I. Pierce Foundation, a new program based on the Project-Based Learning concept started in the 2011-2012 school year.  During the summer, ten mid-school teachers were trained in the concept, in which students develop and investigate questions, meet with experts and conduct their own experiments. The results of the experiments must then be presented in a public forum. That fall students from Madison, Desert Ridge, and Jimmy Carter Mid-schools came to the center to conduct experiments they had designed to address questions in air and water quality, scatology and forest health.  In that first year, 1665 students participated in the program.

Instructor teaching classin meadow at SMNHC  

Projects in 2012-13

  • The Project Based-Learning Program expanded to include more teachers and more students from Madison, Desert Ridge, Jimmy Carter, Van Buren, and Truman Mid-schools; 17 teachers and 2675 students participated
  • The S.M.N.H.C. Pocket Naturalist Guide was published
  •  The Bernalillo County Master Naturalist Program conducted training at the Center.
  •  BioBlitz, a one day citizen science inventory of species, moved from the Rio Grande Nature Center to the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center in August 2012; 200 people attended.
  •  New Mexico Game and Fish provided a grant to begin a Nature Mapping Project in which Center educators collect and share wildlife information gathered throughout the state on the iNaturalist website.
  •  Two new trails, Dove Trail and Deer Trail were constructed and put into use 
  • The two northern barrack buildings fell into disrepair and were torn down.
  • A Bear Monitoring Project was initiated in partnership with N.M. Game and Fish. Two bears were trapped and tracked with transmitting collars 
  •  BioBlitz was hosted again at the SMNHC in May of 2013; 187 species were identified in the 24 hour event.
  • As part of the Hondo Fuel reduction Project, the Forest Service conducted a prescribed burn just above Leopold Loop, on March 13, 2013.  The Center staff installed time lapse cameras to record the recovery and re-growth of the area, which will be used in educational programs.

Prescribed Burn Study Site

Prescribed Burn Study Site September 28, 2013

  • Paul Mauermann attended the launch of the latest Landsat satellite in California on February 10, 2013, as a representative of the Center, which has been chosen to participate in NASA’s Adopt a Pixel Program. The Center staff will methodically photograph specific locations which will be analyzed for accuracy and changes over time with the Landsat images.  In a parallel program, students will conduct surveys of forest cover at designated locations on the Center for comparison with Landsat satellite images now available on a new University of Maryland website, Global Forest Change.   

During the 2013-2014 year the Center’s participated in numerous projects, both new and old.  

Collaborative Forest Restoration Project

Along with numerous government and private agencies, the Center again participated in the Collaborative Forest Restoration Project:

  • February 10, 2014- the Forest Service conducted another prescribed burn; this time just above Paradise Spring and along parts of the Rocky Ridge and Bushwhack trails.
  • March, 2014- Krista Bonfantine, of Arid Land Innovations, trained the Center staff and volunteers in the techniques used in forest health monitoring; some elements of the techniques will be woven into the educational program for students attending the Center.
  • March 25, 2014- another prescribed burn near Mud Spring.
  • On  April 26, 2014- the Center hosted a hands on workshop taught by Professor Ellis Margolis, from the University of Arizona Tree Ring Lab--Dendrochronology-Collaborative Forest Restoration Project.
  • June 13, 2014-the Center hosted a public hike on Fire Ecology, Tree Thinning, and Forest Health

Bear Research

Staff played a major role in the ongoing bear research in the Sandias:

  • Bear Blitz, a pilot program to collect and analyze bear scat to determine the number and distribution of bears in the Sandias: during the week of October 7, 2013, numerous bear scat samples were collected at the Center and analyzed for DNA by Professor Jerry Dragoo of the U.N.M. Biology Department.  The samples proved to be too old and degraded to be of use.
  • For six weeks in the summer of 2014, Center staff participated, along with numerous other agencies, in the Sandia Mountain Bear Collaborative (SMBC), which collected bear hair on barbed wire snares set in 12 sites around the Sandias.  187 samples were collected and will be subjected to DNA analysis to estimate the number of bears in the area.Volunteer Marty Peterson assembling bear skeleton
  • In the Fall of 2013, an intact bear carcass was discovered near Mud Springs. Dave Weaver, a former Professor with the Departments of Medicine and Anthropology of Wake Forest University, and Marty Peterson, both Center volunteers, stripped the carcass and reassembled the bear skeleton.  The completed skeleton should be ready for use as an educational exhibit by the fall of 2014.

Facility Improvements

Bird blind with benches

  • During the summer of 2013, a new bird blind was constructed south of the Stubbe Center. 
  • A new interpretive trail east of the parking lot was completed in the summer of 2014; it has informational signs and a shade structure. 
  • An extensive remodel of the Visitor’s Center was accomplished with the help of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.  New exhibits and improved audio visual equipment were part of the remodel.
  • A new septic system was installed.

New Staff

The Center welcomed several new staff members:

  • Steven Henley, a former science teacher at Tierra Antigua Elementary School. Steven aligned the standards and benchmarks for all Center activities and posted them on the Center website for use by teachers
  • Tobias Archuleta, in charge of maintaining the facility
  • Elizabeth Segura, who handles scheduling and other clerical duties

Other Notable Events

  • October 13, 2013, the Center  hosted members of the  Association of Science and Technology Centers Annual Conference 
  • The Project Based Learning program continued during the school year with three schools: Desert Ridge High School, Van Buren Mid School; and Truman Mid School. All totaled, 49 teachers and over 2500 students participated. 
  • The Weyerhaeuser Foundation committed to provide an $8,000 grant to support basic functions of the Center.
  • The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish provided $14,000 to help fund the Nature Mapping Project and educational outreach.
  • The Collaborative Forest Restoration Project provided $4200 to help fund forest health education through the Center.

Future Plans

Future plans for the SMNHC as of 2014.

Future Plans

A major redesign of the entire facility, in which the old barracks would be razed and new buildings erected is in the planning stages; the project will be financed by $2.5 million from a 2010 school bond.  The new facility would permit an increase in professional training opportunities for APS teachers in ecology and related sciences and an expanded community outreach. The vision is of a Center with the capability to provide educational opportunities to a wider range of  individuals, including students at all grade levels, citizens and scientists; leading ultimately to an ecologically literate citizenry. 

Yearly Participants

Attendees of SMNHC programs 1994 to 2014.

Yearly Participants: 1994 to 2013 

Participants by school year


Sources used in A History of the Center.


  • Archibald, R., Canon de Carnue: Settlement of a Grant, 51 New Mexico Historical Review 313, October 1976. 
  • Atkins, Nancy, Archeological Investigations of San Antonio de Padua, LA 24, Bernalillo County,  Museum of New Mexico Laboratory of Anthropology, 2004.  
  • Baker, Robert, Timeless Heritage: A History of the Forest Service in the Southwest,  USDA Forest Service, 1998
  • Bernalillo County, East Mountain Area Plan, 1992- Special Collections-Albuquerque/ Bernalillo County Library
  • Byszewski, Berenika, A Cultural Resources Inventory Survey for the San Antonio de las Huertas Collaborative Forest Restoration Program in Sandoval County, New Mexico, New Mexico Sate Archeological Survey Permit Number NM-12-121-S, July 2013.
  • Dart, Al, ed., Archeological Investigations of San Antonio de Padua, LA 24, Bernalillo County,  Museum of New Mexico Laboratory of Anthropology, 1980.  
  • Julyan, Robert & Stuever, Mary, Ed., Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 2005.
  • Luna, Jackie; History of the San Miguel De Laredo-Carnuel Land Grant of 1763, hist1973.html 
  • Ellis Q. Margolis, Jeff Balmat, Fire History and Fire–climate Relationships Along a Fire Regime Gradient in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed, NM, USA, Forest Ecology and Management 258 (2009) 2416–2430
  • Ellis Q. Margolis, Thomas W. Swetnam, and Craig D. Allen,  Historical Stand-replacing Fire in Upper Montane Forests of the Madrean Sky Islands and Mogollon Plateau, Southwestern USA, 
  • Fire Ecology Volume 7, Issue 3, 2011
  • Metzler, Richard, Coming of Age in the Great Depression: The Civilian Conservation Corps Experience in New Mexico,1933-1942, Yucca Tree Press, Las Cruces, NM,  April 2000 
  • Mitchell, Eleanor, A Study of an Historical Trail Through Tijeras Canyon, Alb/Bern. County Planning Department, June 1978
  • Smith, Mike; Towns of the Sandia Mountains, Arcadia Publishers, 2006.
  • USDA Forest Service: Archeological Site Inventories, Cibola, No. 03, 2/1977; 8/5/1999; Nov. 2007.


Thank you to those involved in the development of this History of the Center.


I must thank a number of people who took the time to share their memories of the Center as well as photos and videos, including Vera Snyder, Jack Meloy, Marcia Southwick, Beth Dillingham, Helen Haskell, Vince Case and Paul Mauermann. 

I am also indebted to those who dug up old records to help me in my research: Martin Eckert, APS Director of Real Estate; Lucille Sisneros from the State Land Office, Sandra Arazi-Coambs, Sandia District Archeologist, Zachary Parsons, U.S. Forest Service Zone Wildlife Biologist, and numerous librarians who took pity on me and showed me where to find the good old stuff.  

Thanks to Colleen, Tish, and Vern, and all the folks at the Master Naturalist Program. 

Special thanks to my loving wife and editor, Sharon, and Eric, my cartographer.