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Photos: BLM director visits North Slope and legacy wells

The federal government is fixing an environmental mess it left decades ago in the nation's largest oil reserve, removing rusting relics from an early era of exploration and providing a small counterweight of new jobs to the huge cutbacks on the North Slope oil patch.

The progress was highlighted Tuesday with a ceremonial plugging of a decades-old well in the giant National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The remote site 50 miles southeast of Barrow is accessible by ski plane.

Neil Kornze, director of the Bureau of Land Management, poured a bucket of cement mix into an eight-inch-wide pipe, helping plug a well drilled in 1951 near the frozen U.S. Arctic Ocean.

Read more: ‘Environmental disaster’ in nation’s biggest oil reserve finally being cleaned up