A love of nature has led two local brothers to team up with the U.S. Forest Service to help shape the future of 200 million acres of protected land. Branching off from their popular “More Than Just Parks” project, Will and Jim Pattiz, from Peachtree City, have launched “More Than Just Forests” to inspire the public to get more involved in the future management plans for the country’s 154 national forests.
It was their love of the national parks that led the Forest Service to reach out to the brothers for a special project. After the release of their film on Joshua Tree National Park, the third in that series, they were contacted about teaming up.
“They saw the hard work we’ve put in and the parks getting all this love and said let’s have some great filmmaking for the forests,” Jim said.
The “Your Forests, Your Future” initiative will set the direction for the future of our national forests.
“This is probably the biggest conversation about public lands going on today that nobody’s talking about,” Will said. “It’s basically deciding the future management of all 154 of our national forests, plus all the grasslands.”
Starting off with films aimed at engaging the public in conversation, it has grown into a national operation.
“We’re at the forefront of a national operation spearheading engaging the public on the future management of 193 million acres,” Will said.
The series officially launched with their film on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Adventure Journal lauded the film on a forest that encompasses much of Western Wyoming with 3.4 million acres filled with majestic wildlife, watersheds, and peaks.
“All of that and more are here in this inspiring video that will have you packing a bag and heading for Wyoming without even realizing you’re doing it,” said the review.
Will and Jim are currently in post-production on the second film in the series with a focus on Dixie National Forest. The third film will take them to the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota.
It’s all a natural progression for the brothers who grew up in a family that focused on appreciating the world around them. Will and Jim were both active in Boy Scouts, and they did not have cable TV at home as a distraction.
“Our parents really incentivized going outside, so we created our own worlds out there,” Will said.
The Pattiz brothers first gained acclaim for “More Than Just Parks,” a series that will see them travel to each U.S. National Park to film a short movie highlighting what makes that particular park special.
With 14 films already complete, more on the way, and possible plans to expand it internationally, it has been a remarkable journey spawned from a road trip fresh out of high school with friends.
“It was really just a spur-of -the-moment road trip that we decided to go on with a couple of buddies from high school,” remembered Will.
They borrowed their grandmother’s Prius and loaded it to the brim with friends and supplies, leaving Peachtree City with the Grand Canyon as the destination, but it was a stop along the way that made all the difference.
“We took off for the Grand Canyon and along the way we stopped off at a national park called Petrified Forest in Arizona off of I-40,” Will said. “Setting foot in that national park was like setting foot on another planet. There were landscapes that looked like other worlds.”
The blue mesas, striped cliff sides, and ancient rock drawings stoked their imaginations.
“We thought ‘Holy cow, how many of these places exist out there, how have we gone our whole lives without seeing one of these, and how many folks have also never seen one of these?” Will said. “That turned into we’ve got to share these with as many people as possible.”
Their work has not gone unnoticed. Over the summer, they were invited to Washington D.C. for a U.S. Department of the Interior event kicking off their “Restore Our Parks Act” push to encourage public support for infrastructure projects at the national parks.
The brothers created a film, “National Parks: A Love Story,” that was shown at the event.
“It was a real honor and a great opportunity to get to work with them to create this short film about the importance of caring for our national parks,” Will said.
The film hit home for many in the audience.
“We caught a tear or two from (Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke) himself,” Jim said.
Will recounted being told by a Navy Seal that he teared up too.
“He said you guys should be proud of yourself when you can bring a tear to a Navy Seal’s eye,” he said.
The brothers will continue on their journey highlighting the beauty of our natural resources and bringing awareness to what we can all do to help protect them.
To view their films and follow along with their adventures, visit www.morethanjustparks.com and www.yourforestsyourfuture.org.