Today the FDA withdrew its approval for Avastin’s use as a breast cancer treatment. The FDA’s decision was based on large-scale clinical trials that failed to show Avastin improves life expectancies or controls tumor size. The lack of any statistically significant positive benefits combined with serious side effects, such as high blood pressure and hemorrhaging, has pulled this drug from the shelves.
But, some women and physicians (some with financial connections to Avastin’s manufacturer Genentech) believe that Avastin has been effective in treating particular cases of breast cancer. One protester said that the FDA’s decision is “nothing short of a death sentence” for some women.
The problem for Avastin’s promoters is that although it is conceivable that some women might benefit from Avastin therapy — even if women, in general, do not — we do not know how to predict which women these are.
Although the FDA did not consider cost in its analysis, Avastin’s $80,000/patient/year expense also does not counsel for its unsubstantiated use.
So, how is aerial fire retardant like Avastin? The Forest Service acknowledges that no data nor studies show that fire retardant improves initial attack success or decreases average fire size. In fact, fire data for the last ten years show no correlation between firefighting effectiveness and retardant use by national forest.
Fire retardant has known serious “side effects,” like dead fish and crashed airtankers. It is expensive, too, at over $1/gallon to administer — $3,000/drop from a large airtanker.
Although it is possible that fire retardant might be effective under some circumstances, we don’t know how to distinguish those fires from every other ignition.
Just substitute “fire retardant” for Avastin in this summary:
“Many breast cancer specialists say that Avastin does appear to work very well for some patients and some advocates have said the drug should be left on the market for the sake of those patients. But Dr. Hamburg said there was no way to determine in advance who those patients are, so many women would use the drug. “The evidence does not justify broad exposure to the risks of this drug,” she wrote.
Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–November 17, 2011. On the heels of a landmark Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a broad group of senators and representatives introduced legislation today to make sure the administrative rule remains the law of the land—locking in protections for 58.5 million acres of America’s wildest and most pristine forests and waters for generations to come.
The Roadless Area Conservation Act, sponsored by 20 Senate and 111 bipartisan House co-sponsors, will confirm long-term protections against damaging commercial logging and road-building for vulnerable wildlands on 30 percent of the 193-million-acre National Forest System, shielding our Roadless areas from the political whims of future administrations.
This legislation highlights the strong congressional support for protecting America’s unique legacy of wild forests, despite a decade’s worth of attacks from an anti-environmental faction of Congress aiming to rollback Roadless protections. This legislation will also ensure that our Roadless protections are implemented across the nation—without exception.
For those of you who don’t want to look at the whole hearing..from GardenNews.biz here.
US Forest Service Chief Testifies On New Direction For Forest Planning
WASHINGTON, – U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testified before Congress on the strengths and efficiencies of the agency’s draft new Planning Rule that, when finalized, will provide a framework for how all of the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands will be managed in the future.
“We need a planning rule that has less process and costs less, with the same or higher level of protections,” said Tidwell.
In his testimony before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Tidwell discussed how the new rule will decrease the costs of forest planning while delivering better protections for forests, wildlife and water resources and supporting ecosystem services and multiple uses of the National Forest System. The new rule would update planning procedures for 155 national forests and 20 grasslands that have been in place since 1982.
“What started as a very strong proposed rule will now be even better thanks to the hundreds of thousands of constructive comments we received from people and groups across the country,” Tidwell said. “We firmly believe the final rule will deliver an efficient planning process that will reduce costs, facilitate the restoration and management of our forests and watersheds, safeguard natural resources and help deliver a sustainable flow of benefits to the American people.”
Tidwell noted that the new rule will greatly reduce the amount of time required by individual forests and grasslands to revise a plan, which will ultimately save time and money at the ground level. The proposed rule would direct plans to conserve and restore watersheds and habitats and would strengthen community engagement and collaboration during the development and implementation of individual plans.
“Ultimately, the new rule will help forests and grasslands get work done on the ground, producing social, economic and environmental benefits for local communities,” Tidwell said. “The proposed rule also places strong emphasis on the importance of recreation such as hunting, fishing, motorized and non-motorized uses.”
The 1982 planning rule procedures have guided the development, amendment, and revision of all existing Forest Service land management plans. However, Tidwell noted that since 1982, much has changed in the understanding of how to create and implement effective land management plans. He also said that planning under the 1982 rule often takes five to seven years to be revised on average, with some plan revisions taking a decade. The new rule, in contrast, would create a more adaptive planning process that helps units respond to changing conditions, so they can better focus their efforts on the most important work facing their unit.
Under the new rule, Tidwell said that planning would emphasize collaboration, assessment, and monitoring activities. Plan revisions would take less time because the new rule would eliminate many complex and outdated analysis requirements present. The emphasis on collaboration would also help resolve issues at earlier stages in the planning process with the goal of reducing costly litigation.
The Forest Service received around 300,000 comments on the proposed rule and the draft environmental impact statement during the 90-day comment period held earlier this year. The agency has sought public participation to help develop a final rule that will have broad support and endure over time.
Tidwell also noted that the Forest Service had announced yesterday the intention to form a Federal Advisory Committee that will provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on the implementation of the new Planning Rule.
Speaking of titles, the one in the Denver Post print edition this AM was “Toys of Summer.” Definitely more evocative than the one here on the web.
What is appropriate recreation on public lands used by ski resorts?
Skiing, snowboarding and skate skiing? Of course.
How about zipping through the forest canopy on a suspended cable? Racing in a running competition? Dancing at a concert? Barreling down elevated ramps on full-suspension mountain bikes? Pedaling singletrack through the aspens?
Under the 1986 National Forest Ski Area Permit Act, regional Forest Service chieftains had little direction when it came to approving and permitting such summertime activities at ski resorts, and most summer-oriented development was limited to private land at base areas.
That is about to change thanks to the new Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, which
CONCERTS (Associated Press file)
was signed into law Nov. 7. The act amends the 1986 law by expanding potential recreational uses of federal land used by ski resorts.
“One thing we are really concerned about is staying relevant and in touch with the youth of America and changing demographics, and we think outdoor recreation is one of the key ways the Forest Service can interact with people these days,” said Jim Bedwell, the former forest supervisor of the Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests who now serves as the agency’s national director of recreation and heritage resources.
Bedwell has two years to sculpt a new policy that will serve as a blueprint for resort development but said his team will be ready to entertain resort proposals this winter. He expects to see things like zip lines, canopy walks, mountain-bike terrain parks and trails emerging in the already- developed areas of ski resorts. More pristine areas such as Vail’s back bowls will remain in their natural setting.
“We are going to concentrate heavy development within existing development,” said Bedwell, who expects to have a new policy intact within a year.
That policy, he said, will probably include a type of zoning that would corral development into a ski area’s more
ZIP-LINE RIDES (Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)
developed areas around chairlifts and base areas while protecting the less-developed areas of a ski area. And of course, Bedwell said, all development will be natural-resource-oriented and will “harmonize with the outdoor setting and natural environment.” So no Ferris wheels, water slides, golf courses, tennis courts or skateboard parks.
Geraldine Link , director of public policy for the National Ski Areas Association, said the nation’s 121 resorts on federal land will likely quickly pursue things such as zip lines and canopy tours.
“Then, in general, ski areas will begin investing more in summer facilities because this summertime question mark has been removed,” Link said. “This act means we won’t see turmoil or issues based
MOUNTAIN BIKING (Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)
on the appropriateness of summer activities. I think we are going to see resorts go full bore and try to create a critical mass they need for a successful summer program.”
Resorts will still need to follow the established process of submitting a master development plan to the Forest Service and assessing project impacts through federal environmental review.
“It should certainly help in the sense that it will give ‘programmatic’ direction to a wider array of summer uses on Forest Service land within the ski areas,” said Jim Stark, winter-sports administrator with the Aspen Ranger District who last April completed an environmental review of new summertime bike trails at the Snowmass ski area. “Overall, this should help the Forest Service be a little more consistent in how we look at proposals nationally.”
For those who need a break from Colorado pine beetle stories..Note that this story is the sixth article in an eight week series in the Black Hills Pioneer. Remember that the Hills are full of ponderosa pine, a different beast in terms of pine beetles than the lodgepole in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
Forest Service ‘optimistic’ about success against pine beetles
By Mark VanGerpen Black Hills Pioneer | Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 9:38 am
NORTHERN HILLS — The Black Hills National Forest faces some serious challenges in terms of combating the mountain pine beetle, but its managers say there is hope of success.
In terms of the beetle epidemic, Forest Supervisor Craig Bobzien said that with the variety of resources available to us, we can be optimistic about successfully preventing the total infestation of the forest.
“I’m of the belief — and I will say this is a shared belief among a lot of people who are working on this — that in the Black Hills, we have the ingredients in place to have the best chance of being successful in having a healthy forest, of really any place that I know of in the West that’s being threatened right now,” Bobzien said.
To achieve that success, the Forest Service has formulated a strategy for responding to the beetles, but it will also take cooperation with governments, landowners and other entities across the forest.
The Western Bark Beetle Strategy, published by the Forest Service in July, identifies three main “prongs” or considerations in treating for the beetles: human safety, forest recovery after a devastating infestation, and long-term forest resiliency through thinning and treatment methods.
Bobzien said the Forest Service treats for safety first, in areas like campgrounds, trailheads, roads and the wildland/urban interface where public communities meet forestland.
He added, though, that many of those areas aren’t facing serious public safety threats right now.
“(Safety) is our first priority, but it’s the smallest part of what we do on the Black Hills,” Bobzien said. “We don’t have many areas like that because we’ve been able to manage so much of the forest in advance of the beetles.
“We are really working to look at the areas that are both most at risk and where the public resource values are the highest — said differently, where we’d have the greatest consequence if we didn’t take any action.”
Strategically, Bobzien said the most effective place to be — and where the Forest Service is trying to be and remain — is in the “leading edge” zone, which is the area beetles are approaching but have not yet reached.
Strengthening the forest in those areas will presumably prevent the beetles from extending any farther, protecting the forest from further infestation.
But the cumbersome regulations by which the Forest Service must abide sometimes keep it from getting to leading edge zones before the beetles do, and Bobzien said some of the leading edge zones that were identified earlier are filling up with bug-hit trees pretty quickly.
Delayed action is nothing new for the Forest Service, which is hampered by federal regulations, budget processes and litigation from outside sources. Approving a timber sale can take years. Sometimes plans need to adapt during that time to meet new threats, but regulations prevent a quick change in direction.
“It’s like the Titanic – if you see a threat coming at you, how hard is it to change course and do something different? It’s not very easy,” said Northern Hills District Ranger Rhonda O’Byrne.
Bobzien said that the 325,000-acre Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project, along with various other projects that amount to about 200,000 acres, will help decrease response time to newly-hit areas and increase the ability to create a beetle-preventing barrier of thinned, healthy forest in leading edge zones.
Some of those projects could have boots on the ground by summer of 2012.
Bobzien said that approving that many acres for a quick response is critical to staying ahead of the spreading infestation.
“We have just got to look at every possible stand that could be threatened here and analyze this now,” he said. “I don’t think we can (assume) that this is moving at such a pace that we can keep up with it.”
O’Byrne said the Forest Service’s main defense in battling the pine beetles is the timber sale, which allows the timber industry to harvest trees on federal land and what makes thinning in leading edge zones possible.
Maintaining those timber sales in advance of the beetles is “clearly our niche here,” Bobzien said. Without timber sales, which actually create revenue for the Forest Service, then the Black Hills would have to rely on federal funding to fight the beetles, as many other forests in the U.S. do. And federal funds are in short supply these days.
Unfortunately, while the Black Hills has sold more timber than any other forest nationwide in the past five years, the beetles are still advancing, and the timber industry has limits to what it can economically log on the forest.
In other words, the timber sale can’t be our only preventative measure, and O’Byrne said the Forest Service recognizes that. The Forest Service is working with private landowners and volunteer organizations to find a solution for how to best treat the forest.
A lot of landowners and volunteers have come forward in the past six months, ardently trying to help the Forest Service remove beetle-killed trees from national forest land. But there are time-consuming processes for that too.
While O’Byrne and Bobzien said they are impressed with that effort forest wide, it’s not as simple as handing a volunteer a hardhat and chainsaw and setting him loose in the forest.
Legal questions need to be answered first: what degree of training will volunteers need to undergo? Who will pay for it? If a volunteer is injured on the forest, who is liable?
“We are trying to find some instrument that will let the Forest Service work with these other entities … so that the timber sale contract isn’t our only option,” O’Byrne said.
“Right now we’re looking through law regulation policy that affects the Forest Service, seeing if there’s some way that’s legal out there for us to be able to do it. We really want to be able to work with them, but it’s the mechanics of trying to be able to do that … All the federal processes, the laws that we have to meet, they’re there for a good reason, but it takes time to get through them.”
Along with volunteers eager to help are those eager to offer advice, which in turn generates a wide variety of ideas and values about the best treatment strategies and most critical areas to protect. Bobzien said there is no universal strategy for everybody to follow, because the beetles affect different jurisdictions that have different priorities and methods.
That said, Bobzien said there is a need for cooperation and forest-wide prioritization of areas that need to be treated.
“The reality of it is that we do have to prioritize areas, by looking at the values at risk and the consequences of not going there,” Bobzien said. “We clearly have to do that. We do that on a daily and weekly basis.”
Those priority areas naturally shift as new beetle attacks appear or existing ones expand, and even as funding is allocated and spent. Safety is always the top priority, but Bobzien said the Forest Service will also work to protect the economic, recreational and environmental assets in the forest as well, because even though fighting the beetles is tough to do with limited funds, doing nothing could end up costing even more.
This is the sixth article in an eight-week series that discusses the effects of the mountain pine beetle on the Black Hills. Next week’s article will discuss treatment options and tactics in combating the pine beetle.