A dozen West Island residents hammered symbolic stakes into L'Anse a L'Orme nature reserve Saturday in their fight to protect it from commercial development.

The 95 hectares of land, which stretch through Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Beaconsfield, Kirkland and Pierrefonds is up for sale by the Societe Generale de Financement, the Quebec government's investment corporation.

West Island activists say they are determined to prevent the wetlands from becoming a site for condos and industrial development. L'Anse a L'Orme is half-zoned for residential construction; half for industrial.

"These are the areas that we use to ski in the winter - cross-country ski - and walk in the summer," said Ste. Anne de Bellevue resident Gary Townsend.

Those opposed to the sale say that as taxpayers, the land belongs to them.

"The ministry of the environment actually classified it as one of ten ecological territories in Montreal, specifically because it has the only river in Montreal flowing through it," said Mel Lefebvre of the Comite a l'Orme.

The Quebec government announced earlier this summer it would buy the space for $2.6 million, but rescinded the decision two weeks later.

L'Anse a L'orme was bought by SGF in 2000 for $5.5 million, said Martina Hoft of the Comite a l'Orme.

Hoft said the city of Montreal could also purchase the land from SGF, which Ste. Anne de Bellevue councillor Ryan Young said he hopes will happen before the Aug. 16 offer deadline.

"We haven't heard anything yet, but we're still confident that the government is going to do what it needs to do to protect land they already own," he said.

Both the SGF and the city of Montreal were unavailable for comment on the issue Saturday.