• Wes Cormier

The Great Outdoorsman: Dan Boeholt

The Great Outdoors-man, Dan Boeholt was born in Aberdeen and has lived all 63 years of his life in the Grays Harbor area.

Dan worked locally at Dunsire Printers for many years and was a card-carrying Pressman's Union member for 32 years where he held all the offices. During High School, Dan read the book One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey which was a story based on the journals, pictures, and the life of Richard Proenneke. A man who left his job to live in the Alaskan wilderness for more than 30 years.

The book inspired Dan at a young age. His plan after high school was to move to Alaska and live off the land. However, a different path chose him. One that would change the outdoors for many of us in Washington State for many years to come.

He describes himself as an introvert and enjoys working behind the scenes to make a difference as a volunteer and as an informed activist. I believe that introverts make great leaders because they do not seek power or prestige, but rather servitude to causes, principles and their fellow man.

Politically, he considers himself an independent. He likes to work on issues and gets great satisfaction solving problems. He says he does not have a "political bone" in his body. Over the years, he met several politicians and says that elected office is a difficult job. He says, “Some politicians do it for the right reasons, public service. Others do it for the wrong reasons, self-service.”

Service and Action

Dan loves the outdoors so much that he started volunteering for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the late 70’s. A department he loved but would find himself fighting against them at many different levels.

In 1984, he joined the Grays Harbor Bowmen, then the Washington State Bow-hunters. His knowledge and dedication to conservation led him to become the Regional Coordinator, a Board member and eventually the Habitat Director for the Washington State Bow-hunters.

He continued his passion by joining the Washington State Archery Association and the National Pope & Young Club, where he organized the first ever elk project using volunteers to re-vegetate the Wynoochee Dam lake bed for wildlife forage. He began serving as a Co-Chapter Chair with his wife. They have helped grow, fund raise, and establish new chapters across the State of Washington.

He joined the Farm Bureau and began to testify before the Washington State Legislature to protect private and public property against environmentalists.

One example was the Fish and Forest bill. It sought to impose 200 foot setbacks against property owners along rivers and stream. After testifying several times against the bill, the language regarding setbacks was removed.

Dan also helped open the Olympic Peninsula Access Coalition to stop the United States Forest Service (USFS) from destroying public access on old logging roads and gravel bar access. He also became Habitat Director for the organization EYES In The Woods with the goal of keeping public access open to taxpayers.

Wild Olympics vs. Working Wild Olympics

Dan formed the Working Wild Olympics coalition as an opposing force against the heavily funded environmentalist movement, the Wild Olympics campaign. His creation would prove to be successful in preventing more than 250,000 acres of public land from being locked up in a very restrictive land designation. The Wilderness and Scenic River Designation would be blocked for the next 11 years.

The fight continues today.

County vs. Washington Forest Protection Association

Over the course of many months, former Rep. Brian Blake, Dan Boeholt and Commissioner Cormier would meet regularly at local restaurants and coffee shops to discuss how to approach the issue termed, fee for access. Out of these meetings, a county Ordinance was crafted to address the tax-shift and fee for access citizens would be required to pay to access lands to berry-pick, horseback ride, hunt, fish and recreate on.

During a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, the hearing for the Ordinance saw standing room only in the county's large meeting room. The passage of the Ordinance was a significant move for the county. This challenge was a serious threat to some of the largest timber companies in the world.

However, the Ordinance was short-lived as the county was threatened legally by the Washington Forest Protection Association. Dan says, “We were right, and out of desperation the lawyers convinced the other two County Commissioners to repeal it under legal threat." On a 2-1 vote the Ordinance was repealed, and access to hunting, fishing, berry-picking, horseback riding, outdoor recreation continues today to degrade.

Department of Fish and Wildlife vs. Dan Boeholt

In 1991, he led a 6-month public battle against the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff and bureaucrats over their first ever Game Management Plan or as he put it, “mis-Management Plan. He was able to expose their Animal Rights Agenda, which was a turning point at the WDFW Commission meeting.

Dan says that the meeting changed his life, it made him realize that if you want to protect the things you love, you must fight for them. “To enjoy what you care about, you have to be part of what it takes to keep it.” He became a very outspoken activist and leader.

Government Bureaucracy

Dan's greatest frustration in his pursuit to open communication with government agencies and maintain public access to taxpayers (the people that pay for the public land) was what I call the 4th branch of government, the bureaucracy.

Many times, he would interact and discuss issues with government agencies at all levels. Many times, government employees would overpromise or not follow through with agreed upon solutions. He says, “the US Forest Service was the worst. There is no credibility or accountability. He said, “they are a bird of another feather.”

Despite the frustration, he has been extremely effective working on different local, state, and federal issues.

Who will fill his shoes?

I asked Dan, who will fill his shoes? He said, “The causes continue to grow, but unfortunately the activists, like myself, are getting older. The numbers are shrinking as the younger generations don't have the same desires to fight for what is right and what they are going to lose. The highly funded environmentalists will not go away."

If you sat and talked with Dan, you may or may not know that he suffers from Lyme Disease. He has lived with it for decades. This has been a tough battle for him, as it can keep him on his back for many months of the year. Despite facing such an ailment, he has always kept his sense of humor; he calls himself an “Elk-oholic” and has no desire to seek treatment for his elk addiction.

I have listened to him talk about Forest Service roads throughout the Olympic Peninsula that most people don’t know exist. I have heard him talk about game management, habitat restoration, public game, private property rights, fishing, and many other topics with an amazing amount of depth and understanding. These are big activist shoes to fill.

One Man's Wilderness

When Dan is back on his feet, he can often be found on his 40-acre piece of paradise in the upper North River valley working on a project, restoring the land, planting trees or enjoying the beautiful stream that runs through his property.

Brian Blake calls Dan, “Grays Harbor’s Most Dangerous Man.” While there is a playfulness to this there is also truth in the statement because he has fought so many battles against the government at so many levels. Dan calls it a “badge of honor and a great compliment.”

Remember, if you are fishing one of the many rivers of Washington State, hunting game, digging razor clams along the beach, taking a beautiful hike, foraging for chanterelle mushrooms, picking wild blackberries for a pie, viewing a scenic valley in the Olympic Peninsula or enjoying yourself along a body of water; think of Dan Boeholt. This man has fought and kept many of the freedoms you cherish and enjoy today.

Dan Boeholt is the Great Outdoors-man.


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