Roy Gardner can't understand all the fuss.

Just the other day, the National Geographic stopped by. That was after visits from the Smithsonian Institution, the Boston Globe, a U.S. Army two-star general and a host of curiosity seekers.

Gardner, 60, chairman of the board of selectmen, is an important man in this twon of 450 people. But his visitors waste little time on conversation. They hop across the road from his home and stumble down the riverbank, where, with a sense of ceremony, Gardner parts the weeds to reveal his Furbish louseworts.

The louseworts, skinny threefoot plants with homely little yellow flowers, are a matter of considerable interest in Congress and the agencies of government. At one time they were threatening to stop the proposed $745 million Dickey-Lincoln hydroproject.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found the plant, an endangered species, on the site of the project in 1976. Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an opinion that the dam would jeopardize the existence of the lousewort. Federal law prohibits the building of a project that might render a species extinct.

However, the story may have a happy ending - for the lousewort at least. The corps undertook an intensive investigation, uncovering new lousewort colonies downstream, though not enough to declare the species out of danger. Lousewort habitat, propagation and requirements for microclimatic conditions are under detailed study. The corps is looking into purchasing lousewort sanctuaries.

For the moment, environmentalists, fearing ridicule will undercut their efforts to kill the dam, are keeping quiet on the subject. CAPTION: Picture, The Furbish lousewort: Corps is looking into buying it a sanctuary. By Patricia Wellenbach for The Washington Post