PORTER, Ind. (AP) — A northwestern Indiana land trust has donated more than 17 acres of protected natural lands to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The Shirley Heinze Land Trust's donation consists of four parcels adjacent to the park's boundaries. The nonprofit group says the land will reconnect fragmented natural areas while adding to a buffer zone for the national lakeshore's holdings.

The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports the donation includes roughly 14 acres of prairie the Valparaiso-based land trust acquired in 1999.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Paul Labovitz praised the land trust's work in preserving what he called the region's "critical lands" that help support the National Park Service's mission.

The 13,000-acre national lakeshore spans a strip of Lake Michigan beaches, dunes, marshes and other habitats about 50 miles east of Chicago.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com