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408-year-old tree discovered in Algonquin Park’s unprotected logging zone

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Researchers have discovered a 408-year-old tree amid a stretch of old-growth forest in Algonquin Park, located in an unprotected zone open to logging, the Star has learned.

The Ancient Forest Exploration and Research group — a non-profit, charitable educational organization — recently made the find west of Cayuga Lake.

Mike Henry, senior ecologist with the Ancient Forest Exploration and Research Group, tangles with the 408-year-old tree.
Mike Henry, senior ecologist with the Ancient Forest Exploration and Research Group, tangles with the 408-year-old tree.  (Ancient Forest Exploration and Research Group)

It also identified three trees that are more than 300 years old, and five that are more than 200 years old, out of the 10 trees examined.

“Based on mapping we’re pretty sure significant tracts of very old forest have also been logged in the past 10 years, or are currently being logged,” senior ecologist Mike Henry told the Star. The group is now calling on the provincial government to safeguard the area.

“We are confident that there are many more trees older than 200 years located in the Cayuga Lake area” — and likely more that are twice that age, said Peter Quinby, the research group’s founder who completed his doctorate at the University of Toronto studying habitat and vegetation in Algonquin.

The hemlock located last fall is estimated to be more than 408 years old, and “we can only know the ages of the remaining trees by coring trees and counting rings,” Quinby added. “This should be done as soon as possible. We now know that old-growth forests are carbon sinks — so by protecting and restoring them, we can help to maintain our climate.”

In Algonquin Park, roughly 24,000 hectares of old-growth forests are believed to be in zones open to logging. Overall, 65 per cent of the sprawling park in cottage country, about three hours north of Toronto, is unprotected.

In 2000, under Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris, the “Living Legacy” initiative expanded and protected parks, including areas inside Algonquin.

Then, in 2014, the province’s environmental commissioner at the time, Gord Miller, recommended an end to all logging in Algonquin, noting it was the only provincial park in Ontario where it’s allowed.

Core samples from some of the Algonquin trees discovered by the Anicent Forest Exploration and Research.
Core samples from some of the Algonquin trees discovered by the Anicent Forest Exploration and Research.  (Anicent Forest Exploration and Research)

In fact, Algonquin is believed to be just one of two provincial parks in the entire country where logging occurs.

The Ministry of Natural Resources “should bring the management of the province’s flagship park into alignment with the important role of provincial parks today and afford Algonquin Park the same level of protection as the rest of Ontario’s protected areas,” Miller wrote, adding he “strongly urges (the ministry) to end commercial logging in Algonquin Provincial Park.”

Miller said the Liberal government of the day “should live up to its commitment to the conservation of biodiversity by ensuring that all provincial parks and conservation reserves receive appropriate protection.”

The Algonquin Forestry Authority’s management plan for the park will soon be updated for 2020-30, and several groups will be pressing to expand protected zones.

Mike Henry records the height of a 235-year-old tree in Algonquin Park near Cayuga Lake.
Mike Henry records the height of a 235-year-old tree in Algonquin Park near Cayuga Lake.  (Mike Henry)

At the same time, the Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford has begun consultations to “kick-start” the forestry industry, given 51,000 job losses in the past 10 years — although it has said standards will not be watered down. A report is expected this summer or fall.

The ancient forest group says the 408-year-old tree is part of four neighbouring old-growth forest tracts near Cayuga Lake, totalling 1,845 hectares, about half of which are open to logging.

“It’s pretty rare,” said Dave Pearce, forest conservation manager for environmental group CPAWS Wildlands League. “It’s significant old growth.”

His group has lobbied for a wind-down of logging, and says it can be done “with no loss to timber supply.”

Algonquin is an important park because old trees store more carbon than younger forests, and are “incredibly important for biodiversity,” Pearce added.

“A number of species dependent on old-growth are becoming more rare as that type of forest disappears.”

There are very few of these old, pristine forests in Ontario," Mike Henry said.
There are very few of these old, pristine forests in Ontario, » Mike Henry said.  (Mike Henry)

Algonquin is “extra valuable” because it could be a considered a refuge for hemlocks, which have been hard hit in other areas by the woolly adelgid. The invasive pest is not in Algonquin as yet, possibly because of the colder climate.

Algonquin Park is well-managed in terms of separating recreational use from logging activities, “but the whole premise of Algonquin being a park is a joke — parks are places where you don’t log,” Quinby said.

Forests “are not just for cutting trees down to get two-by-fours and plywood,” he said, adding that the typical approach to forestry is not to let trees get any older than 100 to 150 years, when their growth slows.

“We need legislation that says some ecosystems are endangered, and we should protect them.”

Henry said he has cored two hemlocks more than 400 years old — the one in Algonquin and another outside Peterborough.

“There are very few of these old, pristine forests in Ontario,” he said.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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