In his quest to Leave No Trace, Ken Yager has left a big impact on Yosemite National Park. The founder and organizer of Yosemite Facelift has been credited with the removal of 1 million pounds of trash from the Park. How has he done it? By founding Yosemite Facelift 15 years ago as a way to bring together an army of volunteers to search for garbage in every nook and cranny of Yosemite.
Yager, a climbing guide and founder of the Yosemite Climbing Association has spent most of his life in the Yosemite area; playing, working, and volunteering his time in the place he loves. In 2004 he started Facelift, and in September of this year, the non-profit gave out trash bags, litter sticks, and gloves to over a thousand volunteers during the five-day drive. All rubbish collected is weighed at the end of each day. This year 14,126 pounds of garbage was removed from the park.
Each year Yosemite receives over 4 million visitors. While most are respectful of the unique environment in the Valley, it only takes a small fraction of this number to litter the Park with debris. Embarrassed by the amount of trash he saw, Yager humorously says that before he started Yosemite Facelift, “we were tip-toeing through toilet-paper everywhere.” In addition to toilet-paper, volunteers have removed diapers, food wrappers, old tires, steel cables, old climbing ropes, and even an old car at the bottom of a cliff.
Along with his extensive contacts in the climbing world, Yager has been able to harness volunteer enthusiasm through an exciting lineup of events, activities, and guest speakers during the 5-day cleanup drive. Raffles and appreciation dinners through the help of sponsors have been a feature in the past, and this year, Alex Hannold’s climbing documentary Free Solo was screened for attendees. Spurred on by the need he saw in Yosemite, Yager has been the driving force for the largest volunteer cleanup event in National Parks history.