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Geographic names are a key component of the National Spatia


Geographic names are a key component of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure ... Base theme of The National Map. Authoritative A16 database for geographic names ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Geographic names are a key component of the National Spatia

Proposed National Standard for Named Physical
Cultural Geographic Features
Geographic Names Project U.S. Geological
Survey U.S. Department of the Interior
Full Title
  • Identifying Attributes for Named Physical and
    Cultural Geographic Features (Except Roads and
    Highways) of the United States, Territories,
    Outlying Areas, and Freely Associated Areas, and
    the Waters of the Same to the Limit of the Twelve
    Mile Statutory Zone

Translating existing federally developed
standards into a national, public, consensus
based standard
  • 1890 U.S. Board on Geographic Names Established
  • 1947 Board reauthorized in public law 80-242
  • 1975 Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)
  • 1987 GNIS designated as official Federal source
    of names locations
  • 08 Feb 05 NIST withdraws FIPS 55 as Federal
  • 01 Jan 06 GNIS Feature ID supersedes FIPS55
    Place Code
  • 13 Jul 06 Proposal submitted to ANSI INCITS L1
  • 21 Sep 06 Briefed to FGDC Homeland Security
    Working Group
  • 12 Oct 06 Briefed to INCITS L1 Committee
  • 18 Oct 06 Proposal accepted by INCITS L1
  • May 07 Draft Standard submitted to INCITS L1
  • TBD 07 Standard approved

  • ANSI X3.471988 R2004, Structure for the
    Identification of Named Populated Places, Primary
    county Divisions and other Entities of the U.S.
    and Its Outlying Areas for Information
  • FIPS PUB 55-DC31994, Codes for Named Populated
    Places, Primary County Divisions, and Other
    Locational Entities of the United States, Puerto
    Rico, and the Outlying Areas

Standardization not Regulation
Why Standardize Feature Names and Locations?
  • Homeland Security/Homeland Defense
  • Civil Support
  • Emergency Preparedness Response
  • Regional Local Planning
  • Site Selection Analysis
  • Cartographic Application
  • Environmental Problem-solving
  • Tourism
  • All Levels of Communication

The implications of incorrect, inaccurate, or
contradictory feature data appearing
simultaneously from multiple sources are, if
anything, more serious today.
Need for Names Standardization
  • Before19th Century
  • Scientific and exploration expeditions recorded
    conflicting feature names, resulting in
    significant confusion and difficulty
  • Today
  • Geographic names are a key component of the
    National Spatial Data Infrastructure
  • An official A-16 layer
  • And a base layer of The National Map
  • Always
  • Consistency is a key attribute of base geographic

U.S. Board on Geographic Names
  • 4 September 1890 Established by Presidential
    Executive Order
  • 25 July 1947 Re-established by Public Law

Representatives of Federal agencies concerned
with geographic information, population, ecology,
and management of public lands.

U.S. Board on Geographic Names
  • Ensures uniformity in geographic nomenclature and
    orthography throughout the Federal government
  • Formulates principles, policies, and
    procedures for domestic feature names
  • Serves as Federal authority to which name
    problems, name inquiries, name changes, and new
    name proposals are directed
  • Promulgates Decisions with respect to geographic
    names and locations
  • Publishes official feature names and locations

Concepts And Terms
Concept and terms relating to geographic feature
names and locations are defined within
the Principles, Policies, and Procedures for
Domestic Geographic Feature Names of the U.S.
Board on Geographic Names (http//geonames.usgs.go
Geographic Names Information System
  • Official Federal source for feature names and
  • Base theme of The National Map
  • Authoritative A16 database for geographic names
  • Conforms to Board principles, policies,
  • 30 Years of Data from authoritative sources
  • Stable, mature geographic information system
  • Full national coverage, consistent, seamless
  • Quality assured, prevents duplication
  • Open, interoperable, available, web services
  • Functioning partner base Federal, State, Local,
  • Large user community of long standing

Feature Examples in the GNIS
  • 502,000 hydrographic features Synchronized with
  • 395,000 cultural features Mostly structures
  • Cemetery, Dam, Locale, Mine, Military
    (historical), Oilfield, Tower, Trail, Well
  • 376,000 structural features
  • Airport, Building, Church, Hospital, School, Post
  • 257,000 landforms In no other layer of The
    National Map
  • (Other than hydrographic features in NHD)
  • 170,000 populated places
  • 100,000 admin features
  • Civil, Forest, Park, Reserve
  • 97,000 historical features In no other layer
  • 14,000 transportation point features
  • Bridge, Crossing, Tunnel
  • (14,000 Antarctica features)

Scope of Standard
  • Domestic named geographic features, geographic
    areas, locational entities
  • All types, physical and cultural (Except roads
    and highways)
  • Generally recognizable and locatable by name
  • Of interest to all levels of government and
    public for any purpose
  • As defined by authoritative source/data owner
  • Inclusive, not exclusive
  • Standard does not address specifications
    relating to ownership, permanence, size, scale,
    types, classes, or other factors

Exclusion Guidelines
  • Generally excluded
  • Brand name commercial facilities (unless a
  • Unnamed features locatable only by address or
    other locative attribute
  • Small infrastructure and utility elements, e.g.,
    utility poles, junction boxes, pumping stations,
    mile markers
  • Mobile or transitory features that do not achieve
    significant name and location recognition
  • Guidelines subject to review and revision by the
    Board on Geographic Names and staff

The final authority concerning applicability of
any particular feature or feature set to this
standard rests with the U.S. Board on Geographic
Names or the staff of the Geographic Names
A Geographic Feature is
An entity on the landscape/seascape that requires
identification, location, and attribution for
information of government and the public having
  • Feature ID
  • Name
  • Location

Minimum Identifying Attributes
Characterized and differentiated solely by
functionnot by relationships, hierarchies, size,
extent, age, composition, structure, ownership,
or other factors
The Feature Identifier (ID) is
  • Permanent, unique, national record number
  • To absolutely identify that record
  • To absolutely distinguish the record from all
  • In any database, dataset, file, or document
  • Without information content
  • Not a code but doesnt restrict the use of codes
  • Not subject to change as attribute values change
  • Can be mapped to system-specific record
  • Never withdrawn and never reassigned
  • Assigned sequentially to new records
  • Highest existing number plus 1

Why a Standard Feature ID?
  • Ensures national record identity and uniqueness
  • Promotes horizontal and vertical data consistency
  • Correlates multiple datasets
  • Overlapping, potentially contradictory
  • Virtually impossible to correlate masses of
    feature data based solely on attribute
    comparisons or spatial analysis
  • Ensures all attributes and attribute values from
    any source apply to the specified feature and to
    no other
  • Ensures Federal, State, county, local data
    properly represented in official Federal database
    available to all
  • Mitigates against incorrect, inaccurate,
    contradictory feature data appearing
    simultaneously in multiple layers

The Standard Feature Name is
  • Alpha-numeric name, title, or designation
  • The one and only official name per feature (May
    be any number of variant or alternative names)
  • In any language expressible in Roman Alphabet
  • Within guidelines of Board on Geographic Names
  • Complete and correct in wording, spelling,
    capitalization, diacritical marks, special
  • Nationally consistent. Standard in form,
  • Defined by authoritative source/data owner
  • In all but a few cases requiring formal Board
    review (Mostly natural features)

Why a Standard Feature Name?
  • Consistent common reference available to all
  • Accurate and current by authoritative source
  • Without a standard feature name
  • Text easily looses consistency in multiple
  • Even minor variations in wording, spelling,
    capitalization, diacritical marks, special
  • Uneven use of generic terms in the name (School,
    Fire or Police Station, Hospital, Emergency
    Facility, etc.)
  • Non-standard abbreviations
  • Difficult to enforce quality assurance and
  • File matching by name difficult labor intensive

The Standard Feature Location is
  • Official point to which official name is
  • Reliable as national locational identifier
  • Independent of size, extent, other spatial
  • Based on verifiable document/graphic/image/GPS
  • (Geocoded locations not sufficiently accurate.)
  • Stored as latitude and longitude
  • Decimal degrees to seven places, NAD83
  • Available in geospatial format
  • Defined by authoritative source/data owner
  • Normally near center or centroid with exceptions
  • Within guidelines of the Board on Geographic Names

Why a Standard Feature Location?
  • Consistent common reference available to all
  • Accurate and current by authoritative source
  • Without a standard feature location
  • Boundaries not reliable for identity or
  • Multiple versions, varying resolutions, differing
  • Uncertain currency
  • Overlapping jurisdictionshorizontal and vertical
  • Subjective and/or purpose-specific definitions
  • Many features have no single set of definable,
    official, recognized, or agreed upon boundaries
  • 80 of communities have no legal boundaries

Applying as an Authoritative Source
  • Apply to Geographic Names Project
  • Any Federal, State, local agency, associated
  • Able to serve as responsible source of named
    feature data
  • Covering National, regional, and/or feature class
  • Granted primary authority to enter and revise
  • Data from other sources coordinated with
    authorized source
  • The standard does not address conflicting claims
    of jurisdiction, authority, responsibility,
    ownership, and/or stewardship
  • Resolution rests with claimants

Defining a National Standard Feature
  • Name location become national standards upon
  • Submission by authoritative source of a new
  • Validation by Geographic Names Project, or
  • Decision by the Board on Geographic
    Names (Natural features, canals, reservoirs only)
  • Entry into Geographic Names Information System
  • Assignment of a new Feature ID
  • Board Policy
  • Names and locations of cultural (not natural)
    features are determined by authoritative source
    and are not subject to formal Board review and

Revising a National Standard Feature
  • Revisions submitted by authoritative source
  • At any time through multiple mechanisms
  • Written correspondence, telephone, electronic
    mail, secure web forms, batch files (most
    standard formats), automated exchanges utilizing
    web feature services
  • Other procedures as technology advances
  • Changes validated and committed by Geographic
    Names data specialists

Accessing Feature Data
  • Feature data available through GNIS
  • Public web query site (http//
  • File Download Services (http//
  • Web map, feature and XML services
  • Customized files on request
  • Collaborative efforts on common application
  • Other mechanisms in the future

Contains other non-standard attributesfeature
classification, secondary points, feature
State(s) and county(ies), topographic map
name(s), history, description, designations
Related Efforts
  • Feature ID/Name/Location in DHS Geospatial Data
  • Top level optional attributes (next version
    spring 2007)
  • Referenced In draft FGDC Address Standard
  • GNIS Feature ID superseded FIPS55 Place Code
  • Draft MOU with Census to manage the transition
  • Coordinating with other agencies and
  • National Gazetteer Project (Sandia Labs/Patton
  • GNIS the Authoritative source for domestic names
    and locations
  • MOU with GSA/OPM to maintain Federal agency
    geolocation codes with relationship to Feature ID
  • Coordination initiated with NGA HIFLD program and
    HSIP data collection

Worked for the Topos
  • For over a century, the U.S. Board on Geographic
    Names assured consistency and accuracy of
    geographic names on USGS Topographic Maps, the
    only national system of maps. This was a mission
    critical to national development.
  • For thirty years, the Geographic Names
    Information System has been the primary mechanism
    for accomplishing this purpose.
  • Can we do less in the age of the Internet, GIS,
    and The National Map?

  • Louis Yost Acting, Executive Secretary U.S. Board
    on Geographic Names
  • (703) 648-4552
  • Jennifer Runyon Board on Geographic Names Senior
  • (703) 648-4550
  • Joan Helmrich Names Coordinator
  • (703) 648-4622
  • Dwight Hughes Sr. Software Engineer
  • (703) 648-5793

The End
  • Thank you for your interest!
  • Questions?