Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums

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The Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program (ZBGA) is a program of the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT). Funding for ZBGA is appropriated through the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP). The ZBGA Program provides the stimulus to develop educational, cultural and recreational programs interpreting our natural heritage as well as support for the permanent collections of eligible institutions.


Public or not-for-profit organizations which own, house and care for living or systematically organized collections of objects of natural origin and which primarily provide such services to the general public on a regular and predictable basis are eligible for funding under the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program.

For narrative purposes within this application, such organizations are referred to as Natural Heritage Institutions, and the collections, which they own, manage and interpret for the public, are referred to as Natural Heritage Collections. Both of these terms are defined below as they are applied within the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program:

Definition: Natural Heritage Institution

Zoos, botanical gardens, herbariums, arboretums, aquariums, bird sanctuaries, natural habitat preserves, natural science museums, and nature and environmental centers which own, care for and interpret for the public living or systematically organized collections of biological specimens.

Definition: Natural Heritage Collections

preserved and systematically organized biological objects such as vascular and nonvascular plants, vertebrate and invertebrate animals and fossils which are interpreted in conjunction with living collections;

living animals and plants which are cared for and interpreted for the public in artificial or substitute habitats as captives or transplants;

natural habitats of New York State which are formally dedicated in perpetuity to be maintained as viable, natural ecological associations for wild animals and plants, and which are interpreted for the public.

In addition, each program applicant should meet all of the following criteria:

  • have well-defined program goals;
  • be organized as a public or private non-profit institution and exist on a permanent basis to act as a living museum with, as a primary purpose, ongoing education programs servicing children and adults;
  • maintain a facility from which to operate these programs and interpret the collection;
  • have an organized and systematic program for care of the collection;
  • have absolutely no earnings applied to the benefit of a private stockholder or an individual;

Program Restrictions

Under present guidelines, the following are not eligible for funding under the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program:

  • natural history or history museums or collections;
  • science-technology centers/museum or collections;
  • planetariums;
  • gardens and plantings which are primarily decorative, ornamental or commercial;
  • programs which deal primarily with interpretation, utilization and/or maintenance of genetically domesticated plants and/or animals;
  • public school districts or their components;
  • archeological or anthropological museums or collections;
  • Federal agencies and their programs;
  • New York State agencies and departments;
  • research projects;
  • land acquisitions;
  • program activities solely restricted to or directed towards an organization's membership or clients;
  • lobbying.

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

Application Submission and Review

The completed application must be postmarked no later than the date specified in the Program Guidelines for the current application. Whenever possible, an independent field survey of any new applicant institution will also be conducted to assist staff in their review process. All final recommendations are transmitted to the Commissioner of Parks for final determination.

Applications for funding are forwarded to:
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Attn: Catherine Class- 2nd Floor Grants Bureau
Albany NY 12238
(518) 474-0428

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