Sean Gerrity has a vision, which he is rapidly turning into reality. Through the American Prairie Reserve, of which he is president, he is creating a wilderness reserve in North America to rival the Serengeti. Darius Sanai tells the story; and over the next pages, the images of the reserve in Montana tell their own
“In 10 to 15 years, you should see a slice of land extending 13,000 square kilometres here, the vast majority of that with no fences. There will be stunning variety of wildlife that has not been seen here for 150 years, but which was here for 1,000 years or more: thousands of bison, like the wildebeest in the Serengeti; cougars, wolves, grizzly bears in sustainable numbers. There will be all species of prey like elk and deer. It will be very easy to engage with this space: it will be a very wild place but with planned, controlled public access.”
Sean Gerrity is mapping out his vision for the American Prairie Reserve (APR) on the high plateau of Montana. The idea of a kind of vast safari reserve in what has, in recent times, been farmland may sound far-fetched, but Gerrity is no empty dreamer. In his role at the APR, he has already been building the project for 15 years, purchasing and piecing together ranches and farms from owners who are giving up on farming. “Their kids want to go live in the cities and become web designers,” he says, commenting on the decline of the ranching tradition. Rather than let the area become forgotten, he and the APR are building America’s largest wilderness reserve and restocking it with species, many now endangered, that used to roam freely.
Gerrity and the APR work closely with conservation bodies like the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). The most compelling part of his vision is that he wants to build facilities for humans to come and interact and experience and enjoy the wilderness, without destroying it. “It’s a life-producing experience being out there, quite overwhelming,” he says. “All five senses are just roaring. We are building a way for people to access it, for kids to come out and just sit and listen to the sounds and forget about their electronic toys.”
Gerrity knows about the latter: in his previous life, he was a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, founder of a consulting company. He has now returned to his childhood home of Montana and is bringing nature back where it belongs, as the photography on these pages shows.