A much-anticipated Bureau of Land Management decision Friday to move forward with plans to cancel 25 previously issued but never-developed oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide region met with the usual praise from conservation groups and industry criticism.

The BLM formally released its final environmental impact statement for its review of 65 existing leases on the White River National Forest that were issued over the past 20 years.

The preferred alternative in the document lays a path to cancel the controversial Divide leases that cover a swath of land stretching from Sunlight Mountain Resort southwest of Glenwood Springs to McClure Pass south of Carbondale.

It’s a huge victory for the Carbondale-based Thompson Divide Coalition, which has been fighting for years to protect the higher-elevation eastern fringe of the natural gas-rich Piceance Basin from drilling.

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