Mark Rey's argument seemed contorted when he claimed that America's forests produce a harvest of renewable raw materials {"Misguided Environmentalism," letters, Dec. 30}. I hope he did not mean to suggest that the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest are in any sense a renewable resource.

As executive director of the American Forest Resource Alliance, Mr. Rey should know that our "old growth" trees require many hundreds of years to develop their massive size, height and supporting ecosystem. Though the timber industry has the capacity to cut down these magnificent trees, it has proven itself incapable of considering the value of the ancient forest environment or of moderating its "harvests" unless pressured to do so.

We are losing the ancient forests because they are not renewable and because we have been logging them incessantly for generations. In recent years the pace of this cutting has increased dramatically.

It is understandable that the National Audubon Society and other conservation groups that have been documenting this accelerated clear-cutting have drawn fire from the timber industry for doing so.

Certainly a "lock up" of the remnants of our ancient forest might cost the industry some short-term profits, but I think it is unwise for our society to permit the destruction of a unique treasure. We all have a lot to learn about conservation, moderating development, recycling and sustaining our economy without decimating the national landscape. We should begin by recognizing the true costs of our bounty.

DAN JOHNSON Bethesda