If you were asked to name several U.S. National Parks, you could probably do so relatively easily. But what about U.S. National Forests? Most likely, naming even one would be a bit of a challenge. What’s interesting about this is that while there are only 59 national parks in the U.S., there are 155 national forests, and seven out of 10 Americans actually live within 100 miles of one of these wooded areas.
So if the National Forest System comprises such a vast component of U.S. public lands, why is it often overlooked?
This is the same question that Will and Jim Pattiz of More Than Just Parks asked themselves two years ago.
The Pattiz brothers had been documenting America’s 59 national parks through a series of films created to inspire viewers to visit their public lands and take part in their preservation. But they were caught off guard by the awe-inspiring nature of the national forests they frequented along their journey, which offered an entirely different experience. Compared to the parks’ bustling entrances, designated trails, established roadways, and clearly labeled names for just about everything, the forests are much more rugged and do-it-yourself, which makes them approachable yet intriguing. This underlying message of “find your own way” is what initially commanded their attention.
Once they were well-acquainted with the emphatic beauty of the forests, Will and Jim thought that since they had started a project for the parks, they should probably start one for the forests, too.
As soon as they began brainstorming a vision for More Than Just Forests, the brothers got a call from the U.S. Forest Service, who serendipitously stumbled upon a More Than Just Parks video and reached out in hopes of collaborating on the very same project they had just dreamt up. Almost immediately, they began working with the Forest Service to determine the best way to carry out their concept. What they soon discovered, however, was that the Forest Service had a much larger mission, which, in turn, required a larger initiative. So, More Than Just Forests took a back seat while Your Forests Your Future was created — a national campaign to get Americans involved in shaping the future of their 193 million acres of public forests.
Now, after two years, the Pattiz’s project is finally taking flight. Will and Jim will be heading to Bridger-Teton National Forest this winter for the first film of the series, which is scheduled for release in March of 2018, and they have six more forests lined up after that. With 155 films to make, in addition to the remaining national park videos, Will and Jim will be more than a little busy in the coming years. But for them, it’s well worth it.
When they started More Than Just Parks in 2014, Will and Jim were solely focused on raising awareness and appreciation for America’s public lands. The notion that a full-time job could spur from a simple idea never crossed their minds. But now, Will says it’s more common for his wife to find him in the middle of the woods than at home.
Today, More Than Just Forests is officially part of the Your Forests Your Future campaign, aiming to engage viewers with their national forests in a visually moving and emotional way. After all, feelings of ownership and responsibility often come from simply recognizing the beauty and intrigue of a place.
Will and Jim hope that you’ll join them on their trek through some of America’s most stunning protected areas. To keep up-to-date on their visual journey, visit yourforestsyourfuture.org or follow Your Forests Your Future on Facebook.