Advocates for protecting Thompson Divide from oil and gas development moved a major step closer to their goal — and the energy industry perhaps a step closer to the courthouse — following a Bureau of Land Management action announced Friday.

The agency released a final environmental impact statement on a review of 65 White River National Forest oil and gas leases, and identified a preferred alternative to cancel the 25 of those leases that are in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs.

The BLM previously had said it was planning to include cancellation of the leases in its preferred alternative.

“This is a gratifying moment for me, my family, and our entire community,” Jason Sewell, board president of the Thompson Divide Coalition, said in a news release. “For nearly a decade, we’ve worked to protect these lands and the livelihoods they support.”

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