JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — A move to prevent oil and gas drilling on about 40,000 acres of Bridger-Teton National Forest land in western Wyoming is nearing final approval.

A U.S. Forest Service decision Friday to deny drilling in the Wyoming Range area is awaiting final approval by officials in Washington, D.C.

Oil and gas leases in the forest were first offered for sale in 2005.

Criticism from conservation groups and others prompted Congress to ban drilling on 1.2 million acres of federal land in the forest in 2009. However, the 40,000 acres in the Wyoming Range remained open to development and a separate process was initiated on whether to permit drilling in that area.

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