While Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Gore debate whether to permit drilling for oil in an untouched area of the Alaskan tundra, the position of the state’s bankers is clear: They want to drill.

“The value of this land is mind-boggling, and that doesn’t even count gas,” said Marc Langland, president, chairman and chief executive officer of $539 million-asset Northrim Bank in Anchorage. “This is strictly a political issue, not an environmental issue.” Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge “is larger than the total New England states,” noted Daniel H. Cuddy, chairman and president of $1.5 billion-asset First National Bank of Anchorage. “What they want to do is drill some oil on a small portion of the coastal plane, and they have already proven it won’t hurt the wildlife.”

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