HELENA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. government officials are moving forward with a plan to block new gold mining claims for 20 years on more than 30,000 acres of public lands north of Yellowstone National Park.

The U.S. Forest Service released a draft environmental assessment on Thursday for the proposed withdrawal of lands in the Absaroka mountains from new claims for gold and other "locatable" minerals, such as silver, platinum and uranium.

The proposal has been in the works since November 2016. The Forest Service must complete a final environmental analysis and make a recommendation before U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke can make a final decision, which is expected by November.

Forest Service officials say the purpose of the plan is to protect and preserve the forested, mountainous areas for wildlife and recreation just north of the nation's first national park.

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