The Emerald Forest lands, which the municipality took ownership of on Jan. 27, will be rezoned to a new Protected Area Network One zoning as part of a plan to prevent further development on the site. Whistler council gave the new zoning first and second reading Monday. A public hearing will be scheduled for later this month or early next month. The 139-acre site is currently zoned RR1. The municipality acquired the site in a three-way deal with Intrawest and the Decigon group. Intrawest purchased the land from Decigon for an undisclosed price. The municipality then acquired the land from Intrawest for $1 million and 476 new bed units. The municipality has been trying to acquire or protect the Emerald Forest site for a number of years. It is the last link in a chain of protected sites between Alta Lake and Green Lake. The new zoning and a covenant will prohibit development on the site, with the exception of a utility corridor for municipal services, wildlife viewing platforms and trails. There are no buildings on the site but it does include a former gravel pit and a number of bike trails. The municipality will study current uses of the Emerald Forest and develop a management plan for the lands this year. The Land Conservancy of B.C. is also a signatory to the covenant on the Emerald Forest and must approve any changes to the site. The developers of the Nesters Hill employee and market housing project will be allowed to subdivide the property to allow sale of the single family market lots prior to completion of the employee housing units. A covenant in the original development agreement required the developer, Sea to Sky Holdings, to have an occupancy permit for the first of two employee housing buildings and have completed the foundation of the second building prior to subdivision of the market lots. The developer was well on the way to having met that requirement when a fire destroyed the first building on Dec. 7. The foundations for both employee housing buildings are finished and the developer expects to begin construction of the buildings sometime next month. The project includes 25 single family lots. Whistler will again request a conservation officer be stationed locally, even though a letter to council from Environment Minister Joan Sawicki makes it clear if another conservation officer is assigned to the region he or she will be based in Squamish. "The Lower Mainland Region is reviewing the current vacant conservation officer position in Squamish in light of region wide workloads to determine where it can be most effective," Sawicki states in her letter. "However, should the decision be to locate the position in the Squamish area, staff would be located in the Squamish MELP office. I certainly appreciate the offer by Whistler, but the ministry has moved away from one-officer offices for safety reasons and in order to provide adequate coverage during staff field trips and absences." Administrator Jim Godfrey asked council to write another letter requesting a conservation officer be stationed in Whistler because a number of municipal initiatives would be augmented. Ministry representatives have previously indicated that it is because of Whistler’s initiatives with bear management that a second conservation officer has not been assigned to the area.