Richard Pfilf, executive director of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees, said that the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule was "cobbled together at Forest Service headquarters" [letters, June 21].

To the contrary, the rule passed after more than two decades of broad debate and three years of official review and public participation that included 600 hearings nationwide. Dan Glickman, then secretary of agriculture, said, "Never before have the American people so actively participated in helping to decide how their public lands should be managed."

Trotting out the administration's talking points and blaming this rule change on the courts ignores how our judicial system works. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the 2001 rule, and a ruling in the Wyoming federal district court is being appealed. Other litigation involving the rule has been stayed with no decision. The courts did not overturn the roadless rule -- the Forest Service did.

Mr. Pfilf took issue with acreage, but he did not mention that half of our national forests are already open to logging, mining and drilling, or that the roadless rule protected only the last third of our forests. We will never get back what is already gone. But we should be thankful for what is left, and we should fight to protect what we have, because once these places are gone, they are lost forever.

BILL MEADOWS

President

The Wilderness Society

Washington