An Indian Springs man has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison for breaking into a National Park Service site in Nye County and disturbing the only home for one of the world’s rarest types of fish.
Trenton Sargent, 28, also was sentenced to three years of supervised release, according to an announcement Thursday by the park service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In July, Sargent pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas to violating the Endangered Species Act for his role in the 2016 break-in at Devils Hole, a water-filled cavern 90 miles west of Las Vegas.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of destruction of federal property and one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon.
According to federal prosecutors, Sargent rammed his ATV into the gate at Devils Hole and entered the protected site, where he and two other men shot up signs, locks, scientific sensors and parts of the surveillance system. Then Sargent went into the water, smashing in the process the eggs and larvae of the critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish at the peak of its spawning season.
Edgar Reyes, 37, of North Las Vegas and Steven Schwinkendorf, 31, of Pahrump previously pleaded guilty to destruction of government property and violation of the Endangered Species Act. Each was sentenced to one year of probation.
The three men were caught on camera and identified by investigators from the park service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.
The Devils Hole pupfish has been under federal protection since 1967, and millions of dollars have been spent on efforts to study and preserve it.
Its population peaked at 544 in 1990 and bottomed out at 32 in the spring of 2013. Researchers counted 187 of the the inch-long, neon-blue fish during a population survey late last month, the highest autumn total in 15 years.
The lifespan of a typical Devils Hole pupfish is about a year, roughly the length of Sargent’s prison sentence.