Meet Della Moen, Illinois Earth Team Volunteer Volunteer Job Title:
May 5, 2008
Moen has been an Earth Team Volunteer for more than 15 years in the Natural
Resources Conservation Service field office in Freeport, Illinois. Among her
many tasks, the most notable is writing her newspaper column “So What Can We Do”
through the Stephenson County Soil and Water Conservation District. For nearly
ten years, Della has produced these articles weekly, covering a limitless
variety of natural resources issues. A retired elementary school teacher, she
uses her skills as an educator and writer to great effect. Each week Della
prepares a new article which is published in several local papers. The focus is
to help readers understand more about soil and water conservation. Della has a
unique ability to take very complex topics and write them in such a way that is
very readable and understandable to the average person.
But the real magnitude of her work comes from the fact that her articles are
also distributed across the state of Illinois. Each week she writes her column,
which then gets e-mailed to every Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)
and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employee in Illinois. That
means she reaches more than 500 employees and nearly 100 SWCD’s. She encourages
others to use her articles as they see fit in their daily work. Her articles are
then published in local papers across the state and in local SWCD newsletters.
Her efforts, therefore, touch literally thousands of people in Illinois. Due to
her knack for writing in a way that is easy to understand, all of these people
have a better understanding of conservation and how it impacts our daily lives.
Nearly everyone would agree that one of our biggest challenges is to communicate
the need for conservation. If we can somehow instill the importance of
conservation in our customers’ daily lives, then the job of putting conservation
on the ground becomes easier. Della’s efforts do just that. Her ability to take
complicated technical topics and turn them into something accessible to the
average reader is simply amazing. For example, in a recent article she discusses
the importance of soils as they impact land use planning. She goes on to talk
about how soils vary from one location to another, and that USDA/NRCS has a soil
survey which shows the different soils within any given area. This information
was timely for our local office because we had just completed an update to our
soil survey. The article was distributed across the state and, while its
timeliness applied particularly to our local office, I am sure that readers all
across the state learned about the importance of their own soil surveys. In
addition she talked about the internet program “Web Soil Survey. In the article
she sends people to the internet site to learn more about the soils in their
locations. The power of this kind of publicity is impossible to measure.
Della faces two primary challenges in the writing of her articles. First and
foremost is the fact that she is not a technical person. This is both an asset
and a liability. In order for an article to demonstrate competence, she must
gain a thorough understanding of her topic. She spends many hours researching
each topic and gaining knowledge about it. (She estimates that she spends eight
to ten hours of research and writing per article.) This allows her to bring a
high level of technical accuracy to her articles. Her not being a technical
person helps her to avoid getting caught up in minutia which would bore the
Her second challenge is to find topics to write about. It is very important to
Della not merely to fill the need for the week, but to write an article that is
timely and of interest to her readers. She searches constantly for topics to
write about each week. So far she has succeeded for nearly ten years and nearly
Della’s work has gone a long way towards nurturing and building partnerships.
Whenever the public gains a better understand of conservation and the work we
do, it helps us do our job a little better. Just one example is an article she
wrote about a year ago concerning the Yellow Creek Watershed planning committee.
As a result of her article and their own efforts, this committee continues to
improve water quality in the watershed.
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