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OKd by Panel : Wildlife Waystation Bill Moves

Times Staff Writer

An early step toward saving the endangered Wildlife Waystation in Tujunga Canyon was taken Monday as the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee approved a measure to set aside $300,000 for improvements at the wild-animal refuge.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Marian W. LaFollette (R-Northridge), was passed on a 7-2 vote and sent to the Ways and Means Committee.

If the measure is approved by the full Assembly and Senate and signed by the governor, the money would be provided immediately from the state’s Environmental License Plate Fund, which is reserved for conservation purposes.

The 160-acre Waystation is a private, nonprofit refuge owned and operated by Martine Colette, who founded it nine years ago. The refuge is home to at least 500 lost, abandoned and mistreated wild animals and costs about $25,000 a month to operate.

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‘Bearing’ Witness

LaFollette joked, “We’re sorry we couldn’t bring you one of the new grizzly bears to appear here as a witness.”

Colette holds fund-raisers at the refuge to pay her bills. But, because the events draw thousands of animal lovers, Los Angeles County recently required Colette to improve the refuge’s water supply, sewers, drainage and roads.

In urging the committee to support her proposal, LaFollette said the county action “has provided really a Catch-22 situation, for if the fund-raisers cannot be held, the contributions fall, and the only alternative is to put the animals to sleep.”

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But some lawmakers objected because the state funds would go toward making property improvements, and they want the money to be spent on animal care.

LaFollette agreed to modify the bill.

Proposal Criticized

Assemblyman Rusty Areias (D-Los Banos) praised the Waystation’s work but criticized the proposal, telling Colette, who attended the hearing, that the improvements “would enhance the value of your property.”

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He suggested that Colette take out a second mortgage on her property to raise the money. But Colette told the committee the 160-acre ranch is already heavily mortgaged.

Areias’ suggestion triggered an angry response from LaFollette, who told him, “I resent in a way your line of questioning because it sounds like you are trying to suggest that someone is here, Ms. Colette, to improve the value of her property for her own selfish motivation.”

Areias responded that LaFollette was misinterpreting his criticism. “To go into and build facilities for a fund-raiser is not something we typically do,” he insisted. Areias and Assemblyman Norm Waters (D-Plymouth) cast the only votes against the bill.


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