Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Zoos, Botanical Garden and Aquaria, Operational Support Grants Program

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ZBGA is an eligibility-based grant program that provides consistent operational support for existing natural heritage collections and interpretive programs, with the goal of elevating and expanding the quantity and quality of natural heritage learning opportunities available to the public.


ZBGA provides reimbursement for expenses related to the care, maintenance, security and interpretation of eligible collections. Funds are made available through an appropriation from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund and administered through the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP).


Applicants must be municipal or not-for-profit organizations that own, house, care for, and interpret living or systematically organized collections of biological specimens of natural origin, and that primarily provide such services to the general public on a regular and predictable basis. Eligible collections must meet at least one of the below definitions:

  • preserved and systematically organized biological objects such as vascular and nonvascular plants, vertebrate and invertebrate animals and fossils that are interpreted in conjunction with living collections;
  • living animals and plants that are cared for and interpreted for the public in artificial or substitute habitats as captives or transplants;
  • natural habitats of New York State that are formally dedicated in perpetuity to be maintained as viable, natural ecological associations for wild animals and plants, and that are interpreted for the public.

Eligible organizations may include, but are not necessarily limited to: zoos, botanical gardens, arboretums, aquaria, bird sanctuaries, natural habitat preserves, natural science museums, and nature and environmental centers.

Program Restrictions

The following entities, programs and activities are not eligible for funding under the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquaria Program:

Ineligible Entities include:

  • for-profit organizations
  • public school districts or their components
  • Federal agencies and their programs
  • New York State agencies and departments
  • cemeteries 501(c)(13)

Ineligible Collections and Programs include:

  • natural history collections
  • historical, archaeological or anthropological collections
  • art collections
  • science-technology collections
  • astronomy collections
  • gardens and plantings that are primarily decorative, ornamental, or commercial
  • programs primarily concerned with horticulture, i.e., the culture of plants for food, comfort, or beauty
  • programs primarily concerned with genetically domesticated plants and/or animals (i.e.,. petting zoos, farms)

Ineligible Activities include:

  • research projects
  • land acquisitions
  • program activities solely restricted to or directed towards an organization's membership or clients
  • lobbying or political activities
  • fundraising activities
  • collection acquisitions
  • primarily commercial activities
  • rescue and rehabilitation
  • food services
  • overhead and other indirect expenses.

Note: Institutions with collections that include both eligible and ineligible categories and otherwise meet all program criteria are eligible ONLY for assistance in areas relating to the natural heritage portions of their collections and public service programs.


The application window for applicants seeking admission in year four (Period 4) of the five-year grant program will open in Fall 2023 and close late December 2023. Grants will be awarded for a two-year period commencing on April 1, 2024 and expiring on March 31, 2026. Applicants will be asked to provide expenses for the period from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023. The expenses that may be included are defined in the ZBGA Expense Guide for Award Calculation and Reimbursement, available at the link below. Additional information will be made available in the 2023-2026 Request for Applications (RFA).


To apply for the 2024-26 ZBGA grant opportunity, your organization must be registeredLeaving New York State Parks in the Grants Gateway. Only applications submitted through the New York State Grants GatewayLeaving New York State Parks will be accepted. All not-for-profit applicants must be PrequalifiedLeaving New York State Parks.


Application Deadline: Friday, December 29, 2023, at 4:00 p.m. EST
Award/Decision Letters: Winter – Early Spring 2024
Contracting: April 2024
Initial Payment: Mid 2024



Reimbursement requests comprise of: 1) a State Aid Voucher, 2) ZBGA Expense Summary Report, and 3) Grantee Certification. These documents can be found on the Grant Forms & Resources page.

Backup documentation for all expenses must be readily available to be provided electronically within two business days upon request but should not be submitted with reimbursement requests. Backup can take various forms including, but not limited to, copies of receipts, invoices, payroll registers, IRS form 941, employee signed and approved time sheets, check registers, bank statements and cancelled checks.

Reimbursement requests should be submitted by e-mail to Reimbursement cannot occur prior to contract execution and receipt by the Agency of a valid request.

Reimbursements will be processed through the Statewide Financial System via Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer. In some cases, an ACH transfer may combine multiple grant reimbursement(s) with payments from other NYS programs or agencies. Detailed payment information can be obtained using the NYS Vendor Self-Service PortalLeaving New York State Parks (select "Vendor Portal Login").


This program is administered by the Grants Bureau of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.