LUFKIN, Texas (AP) _ The U.S. Forest Service has cut down thousands of acres of East Texas pine trees in a battle against the pine beetle, but environmentalists say the cure is worse than the problem.

They say the insect war is not winnable and the forest service has destroyed 285 acres of Texas wilderness.

''It's the 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre,''' said Rodney Snodgrass, regional director of The Wilderness Society, a Washington-based environmental group.

''The question is, are we going to have any wilderness left when the forest service gets done cutting?'' His remarks were published Sunday in the Dallas Times Herald.

Forest Service workers are cutting down the trees to create 200-foot buffer zones in an effort to control the Southern pine beetle, which flies from tree to tree.

''You can't eliminate the beetles; you just try to keep the population as small as possible,'' said David Dailey, deputy forest supervisor for the national forests of Texas.

Environmentalists, who say wilderness areas in Louisiana and Mississippi are also being cut to fight pine beetles, fear the insects will be used as an excuse to begin logging in other states.

''It damages the wilderness severely,'' said Ned Fritz, director of Dallas' Committee on Natural Resources. ''It's like trying to control a flu epidemic by killing everyone in the neighborhood.''

Rep. John Bryant, D-Texas, has introduced a bill in Congress that would ban the forest service from cutting trees in wilderness areas, and other legislators have sought investigations of the beetle program.