Rock musicians who once were antiwar activists are adding a sophisticated twist to their efforts of the 1960s to help defend the environment today.

"We have been around long enough to learn how to use the system," said Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. "We have contacts in government."

"Back in the 1960s we were just a bunch of kids protesting something that was being done to us and with us, without our consent," Weir said recently. "This is once again an instance where something is being done to us and with us, without our consent, but we are not just a bunch of kids anymore."

John Oates of the band Hall & Oates agrees. "I think it's time the American people start to make themselves heard again, and a lot of times musicians tend to be at the forefront of that," he said.

Oates, like Weir, sees differences in the environmental movement and protests against the war in Vietnam.

"I think people were trying to work outside the system," Oates said. "Their lack of effectiveness and the frustration with not being able to effect change has caused people to realize that they can be effective within a system."

Rock star Paul McCartney joined forces with the environmental group Friends of the Earth during his 1990 world tour, collecting signatures on large petitions at concerts and lining them up for efforts on Capitol Hill.

"If you get a chance to vote, tell your politicians to vote for a clean world," the former Beatle told fans at a concert here in July.

Oates, Weir and songwriter-singer Carole King have been active in the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, a group opposing deforestation in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest.

The organization lobbied Congress this year, seeking to ban logging across millions of acres in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Oates said many of his friends and associates in the music business have a growing awareness of the environment.

But King said that is merely a reflection of increasing concern throughout the general population.

"I think musicians are just people who happen to be musicians. The fact we happen to be famous makes our involvement more visible," she said.

Weir and Oates joined the Alliance for the Wild Rockies last summer on a 200-mile bike ride to examine clear-cutting of national forests in Montana's Swan Valley.

"Over the past couple dozen years, I have been flying back and forth over our Pacific Northwest and it's just amazing to me how much of the forest land has disappeared -- to the point Oregon and Washington look to be pretty much ruined to my eyes," Weir said.

King cited signs of hope. "Lately I have seen very much growth in involvement of famous and nonfamous people in environmental issues," she said. "People are starting to wake up now because they walk out their door and their eyes burn, because they have to buy their water in bottles instead of drink it out of the tap, because they can't go swimming in their favorite body of water because it is polluted."

But Weir said more involvement is needed. "These anti-ecological programs and practices are equally ruinous to us, and yet the tide of public opinion has yet to be swayed against them," he said.