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Latest Score: Mill Creek 1,473, Spring Creek 1,312
Released: 9/3/1996

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Donovan Kelly 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4460

The Nation has nearly 2 million names for its geographic features -- mountains, town, deserts, streams and everything in between.

What are the most common names? Mill Creek appears 1,473 times on U.S. maps and Spring Creek, 1,312 times.

Trying to keep track of all those names, as well as adding new ones and changing old ones is the job of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The Board includes members from ten Federal agencies and works closely with state and local governments and tribal councils.

"We recognize the importance of our work, because we know anything from rescue operations to background for legal decisions may depend on getting the right names on all the different maps and reports produced by different agencies," said Dick Witmer, chairman of the Board’s Domestic Names Committee.

"At the same time, our computerized listings are available for genealogists, hobbyists and others who just like to do research with names," said Witmer, who is Acting Chief of the national mapping program of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Nation’s largest civilian mapping agency.

The next monthly meeting of the Committee is being held Thursday (September 5, 1996) in Salt Lake City as part of the annual meeting of the Western States Geographic Names Conference (Sept. 4-7). The Committee will join in discussions of a number of western geographic name issues, including the question of derogatory names and proposals to name places in wilderness areas.

(In Utah, the two most common names for geographic features are Mud Spring (60 features) and Dry Canyon (50 features).)

"Proposals to change names or add new names may be submitted directly to the Board or through the appropriate state or tribal authority," said Witmer. "The Domestic Names Committee receives about 300 requests for new or revised names each year."

At the Salt Lake City meeting, the Committee will consider 24 proposals for new or changed names, including:

* Three proposals from Minnesota to change names with the term "Squaw" to something considered "less derogatory" by that State.

* A proposal to name a Utah summit in the Wellsville Mountain Wilderness Area to commemorate Bob Stewart, one of Utah’s first county extension agents.

* A proposal from Nevada requesting that a feature in Clark County be officially named "Unnamed Wash." The Domestic Names Committee meets monthly to consider domestic name issues and includes representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Geological Survey, National Ocean Survey, Library of Congress, Bureau of Land Management, Census Bureau, Postal Service and General Printing Office.

Once the decisions of the Committee are approved by the Secretary of the Interior, they become standard usage for all Federal maps and publications.

The U.S. Geological Survey provides basic staff support to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and its Domestic Names Committee, including maintenance of the data base for the nearly 2 million place names in the U.S. Public access to this data base is available through updated CD-Rom disks ("Digital Gazetteer of the U.S.") or through the Internet (http://www-nmd.usgs.gov/www/gnis). For assistance with place name questions, call the Executive Secretary of the Board at 703-648-4544. (September 3-7 c/o Red Lion Hotel: 801-328-2000)

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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