POCATELLO, Idaho - Nearly 30 local high school students ditched schoolbooks for shovels Thursday.
Dawn Peterson's biology class at Pocatello High School took a special field trip today, where they helped Idaho Fish and Game along with the Rocky Mountain Mule Deer Foundation restoring the land destroyed by the Charlotte Fire.
"I think it's neat. A lot of them get a chance to get out of the classroom and get a hands-on experience with what they've learned," Peterson said. "And a lot of them want to get into the Fish and Game and so they get out here and get a taste of what kind of work they do."
The students helped plant more than 1,700 bitterbrush plants along the hills up Gibson Jack Road, which will serve as food for the local wildlife population.
Fish and Game biologists say planting the crops out in the hills will keep the deer out of danger. After the fire scorched the land, the animals have been scouring for food near homes which has led to an increase in the amount of deer that have been hit by vehicles along the roads.
"You want to make sure the deer do not get hit on the highway and this keeps them from human conflict," Idaho Fish and Game Mule Deer Initiative Biologist Carl Frey said.
Steve Leaman, also known as 'the deer man,' owns property in that area, and has spent the past few months trying to rebuild his entire life after the fire claimed more than 50 years worth of memories. Today, he said watching the restoration of the habitation has offered a sense of comfort and hope to him and his family.
"It's amazing to have a group come in and try to help the habitat," Leaman said. "And right now, to me, it's like we're turning to the wildlife."
Leaman also said this restoration project has inspired him to offer advice to others who suffered tremendous losses from the fire.
"You might have lost everything, you might have been knocked down, but you're not totally burned out, so just get up, and get going. Pull it back together."
Rocky Mountain Mule Deer Foundation's Terry Kaisem said there will be a plant distribution on Saturday morning starting at 9 a.m. for fire victims. The event will take place at the fire station on Mink Creek Road and will end at 2 p.m.
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