The editorial call to preserve old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest at the cost of throwing thousands out of work {"Forests, Jobs and Owls," June 29} is based on two false premises: that the country "isn't running out of jobs" and that it "doesn't need the lumber."

There are no substitute jobs in the Northwest for loggers and sawyers. They already are being laid off, before the impact of the listing of the Northern spotted owl as an endangered species has hit. Up to 50,000 additional layoffs are expected unless some balance can be struck between the need of the owl and that of humans. We commend the administration for attempting such a compromise.

If the country doesn't need the lumber, why do we import 30 percent of our needs from Canada? Stopping exports from private lands simply won't eliminate the need for imports. Demand for wood and paper products is expected to increase 50 percent during the next 50 years: world demand will double. Much of this demand will come from places in the world, such as the tropics, where trees are not replanted and forests will not grow again.

The United States has the capability to help meet world demand, but restrictions on timber harvesting from national forests in the Northwest and elsewhere make it impossible.

As executive director of the leading representative of the forest industry, the American Forest Resource Alliance, I feel strongly that The Post's editorial indicates a rather shallow knowledge of forest economics and policy. MARK REY Washington