Conservation: Trees for St. James

Ten years ago, St. James, Mo., looked like a town that was out to win the grand prize for uglification. Long distinguished by its handsome trees, the town of 3,000 inhabitants, which nestles in the Ozark foothills, had called in bulldozers and chain-saw gangs to systematically destroy nearly every one of its existing trees.

In fact, the carnage was only the first step in a plan to make St. James more beautiful than ever. Most of the trees cut down were soft maples—shortlived, brittle and prone to wind and ice damage. Many of them were already diseased and dying. Using...

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