The July 13 front-page story regarding the proposal to replace the "roadless rule" on Forest Service lands contained gross distortions governing these multiple-use lands.

First, the article stated that the Bush administration "plans to overturn" the rule finalized in the last weeks of the Clinton administration. In fact, a federal judge ordered an injunction blocking its implementation because it violated federal law.

Second, the article perpetuates environmentalists' myths that Forest Service lands are sacred and must remain untouched. Federal law specifically mandates the opposite. Unlike land set aside by Congress for national parks or "wilderness," Forest Service land is reserved for "multiple uses," including timber and natural gas production.

Road development on these lands does not preclude environmental compatibility. Unlike "wilderness" areas designated by Congress, roads promote recreational biking, bird-watching, hiking, fishing and camping. Roads on Forest Service lands make the splendor of vast areas accessible to those who would otherwise be unable to penetrate more than a few yards into land owned by all Americans.

Moreover, the old rule, finalized days before the inauguration of President Bush, ignored the En- ergy Department's study that found that changing roadless boundaries 5 percent would yield 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas at a time when domestic supplies are declining. Millions of dollars in revenue to the Treasury and to the states, mandated for education, have been lost. Also, drilling each well requires about 20 workers, generating high wages and payroll taxes. An additional $1 million goes for royalties and payments to communities in lieu of revenue that would have to be derived from property taxes; this money is spent largely in the localities where the wells are drilled. And drillers must restore sites when production ends. Americans deserve to know the totality of this issue.

JOEL SALTZMAN

Arlington