This article was filed before the author and other American correspondents were expelled from Iran.

They race across the open desert on motorcycles, mowing down the once-protected gazelles and deer with machine guns.

Sometimes the motorized poachers at Kavir National Park near here chase the animals into submission, then ritualistically slit their throats.

Hundreds of miles to the north, unlicensed fishermen in small wooden boats drop dynamite into the Caspian Sea, waiting with nets as scores of cavar-laden sturgeon belly up.

In the Zagos forest of west Iran, villagers harvest acres of valuable hardwood trees for fuel ro sale to furniture makers, then plant crops or graze livestock on the fertile land.

In a nation turned upside down by revolution, the natural resources so carefully preserved by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi have become a major casualty of the new Islamic republic.

After years of restrictions and stiff penalties for such infractions as felling a tree, Iranians flock to the seas and forests today and simply take what they want.

With sophisticated weapons seized from army barracks last year, they frighten off resources police as they leave behind ecological havoc.

Mohammed Vehedi, Iran's deputy director of natural environment, said such pillage is understandable in a counry without a strong central government or a new set of laws.

Suddenly you had a change in the face of the regime," he said, "and it was very acceptable for us to want to do all of the things we couldn't do before.

"It's like in the city of New York. All that breaking into stores and looting when the electricity went out. People want to do things when there is no police and no regulations."

Iran is blessed with numerous fresh-water lakes and rivers, the bountiful Caspian Sea and millions of acres of forest filled with some of the world's rarest wildlife -- Persian fallow deer, Caspian tiger, jebeer and goitered gazelle, wild ass and cheetah.

The shah, intent on protecting this national treasure, insisted on strong conservation laws and appointed his brother, Abdol Reza Pahlavi, as Iran's environmental chief.

Although Abdol Reza Pahlavi aggresively prosecuted poachers -- the fine for destroying a Persian fallow deer was $3,500 -- he apparently was willing to bend the rules for himself and his friends.

Game wardens at wildlife preserves were instructed to search for prize trophies, stalk them and somehow get word to the environmental chief, who would arrive later in a helicopter with a hunting party of friends and servants from Tehran.

"The people saw that the environment was only being protected for the shah's brother," remarked Vahedi. "The people couldn't use the wildlife for themselves. After the revolution, they had this in their minds."

Soon after the shah was topled, Iranians, imbued with a new sense of freedom, picked up their G3 assault rifles and pistols and marched to Some of Abdol Reza Pahlavi's favorite hunting grounds, such as Kavir National Park, a huge expanse of desert located 100 miles southeast of Tehran.

Wild animals at Kavir, almost tame after years of near security from hunters, were easy targets for motorcycle gangs zooming across the flat open spaces, sometimes using flashlights at night to freeze their prey before gunning them down.

Although many of the hunters come from nearby farming villages like Varamin, hundreds more drive from Tehran carrying their motorcycles in the back seats of Land Rovers or the backs of trucks.

One day recently, shots could be heard across the desert, but the park was empty of guards. Villagers who use the oil in the bones of wild ass as a medicine were seen along the outskirts of Kavis with automatic rifles in hand.

Near the entrance of Kavir, Tamur Kallakouh was tending the herd of 400 sheep that he has brought to the park for winter grazing on ground painstakingly cultivated by botanists over the past 15 years as a guard against land erosion.

"I never had the guts to come before," said the 21-year-old shepherd. "I heard things were easier now. Otherwise I would have hand-fed my sheep in a barn for 1,000 rials [$15] apiece for the winter."

In north and northwest Iran where the tall cypress, beech and maple trees flourish in the cool wet climate, poachers have cleared away thousands of acres of the hardwoods to make room for livestock grazing and farming.

As many as 300 trees are sawed and backed down in the Zagros and Caspian forests every day by local people needing firewood and entrepreneurs who sell the lumber at great profit to homebuilders and furniture manufacturers, according to Vahedi.

The northwoods lakes have long been the mating and hatching grounds for duck, geese and swan that migrate from Siberia. But experts now fear that a whole generation of the birds may be lost because of wanton hunting in places like the Caspian forest.

A similar warning comes almost weekly from Shilot, Iran's fishery agency, which says that unbridled poaching of sturgeon has drastically reduced the population and threatens the nation's profitable caviar industry.

Shilot-apporved fishermen are the only ones allowed by law to net the valuable sturgeon, and they abide by strict seasonal limits and other requirements, such as size of mesh and permitted locations for the fishing.

But since the revolution, the Caspian Sea is jammed with unauthorized fishermen who not only drop nets regardless of the season, but use explosives to increase their catch and fish in spawning grounds before the sturgeon have laid eggs.

Although Shilot posts guards along the waterfront, they are too undermanned and underarmed to confront the hundreds of gun-toting poachers who fish the Caspian every day, according to fishery officials.

Vahedi stresses, however, that using force to stop the environmental destruction of postrevolutionary Iran is not practical.

"The Army is with the people and the people are with the Army." he said. "They don't want to fight each other. We must talk to the [violators] and explain to them that these are the resources for you and your children.

"If you destroy them, nothing will be left." We live under a tyranny of Homo sapiens who are ... well, who are inco