The article "Under Attack, Forest Service Chief Is Silent" {Sept. 21} described pressures on agency chief Dale Robertson arising from the controversy about protecting the Northern Spotted Owl and the Forest Service's shift from emphasizing timber production to protecting wildlife, fisheries and recreational opportunities.

The article, however, overlooked one of Mr. Robertson's great success stories. Hundreds of our finest remaining free-flowing rivers are on National Forest lands, from the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the Cascade Mountains of the Northwest. In 1988, Mr. Robertson committed his agency to recommending congressional designation of 200 additional wild and scenic rivers by 1993. By comparison, between 1968 and 1988, Congress designated only 120 national wild and scenic rivers.

The Forest Service is well on the way to fulfilling Mr. Robertson's goal. Three of four rivers permanently protected by Congress since 1988 were initially studied and found eligible by National Forest planners. Legislation that protects 14 Michigan rivers previously found eligible by the Forest Service has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. Hundreds more rivers have been determined eligible for the national rivers system since Mr. Robertson's pledge and now await congressional action.

Future generations will be enriched by the Forest Service's efforts to protect our nation's rivers.

KEVIN J. COYLE Washington

The writer is president of American Rivers, a nonprofit conservation organization.