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Interior Secretary Salazar to visit Alaska

Alaska's biggest landlord is coming to visit this week and the state's residents will get a chance to tell him whether offshore oil and gas development in federal waters off Alaska's coast is a good or bad idea.

Ken Salazar, the new U.S. Interior Secretary, plans to visit Alaska on Monday and Tuesday to gather opinions about the federal government's proposed oil and gas lease sales in the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea and the Bristol Bay region. That input will be included in the Obama administration's offshore energy plan, scheduled for completion in six months.

Advocacy groups for and against drilling in federal waters are pulling out all the stops to snag Salazar's attention during an all-day public hearing scheduled Tuesday in downtown Anchorage. Salazar is hosting a similar meeting Monday in Dillingham, where several groups say they plan to ask him to reverse a Bush administration decision to allow mining claims on federal land downstream of the massive copper and gold Pebble prospect.

Salazar holds huge sway over Alaska, as his department controls most of the land in the state. It oversees national parks and wilderness. It sells oil and gas leases on the North Slope. It helps regulate fishing and hunting. Its Bureau of Indian Affairs is concerned with the welfare of Alaska Natives.

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