Wisconsin Geographic Names Council
The Wisconsin Geographic Names Council (WGNC) is a state council established to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout Wisconsin. The WGNC comprises representatives of state agencies most concerned with geographic information. Sharing its responsibilities with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN), the WGNC promulgates official geographic feature names with locative attributes as well as principles, policies and procedures governing the use of feature names.
The WGNC currently meets in the year's first quarter (January - March). All new proposals must be submitted by Oct. 1 to be considered the following year. (For example, submit a name proposal by Oct. 1, 2022, to be considered in 2023.)
- Submit a Geographic Name Proposal
Anyone may submit a naming proposal to the WGNC. Before filling out a Geographic Name Proposal, review the WGNC and BGN naming policies.
To submit a proposal, fill out the required Geographic Name Proposal (Form 2200-124) The proposal form asks you to fill in information about the feature along with your basic contact information.
To help expedite the proposal and decision-making process, please consider providing supplemental information that supports the name or name change. Such information can include, but is not limited to:
- Historical Documents
- Land Ownership Records
- News articles
- Restoration Projects
- Local Support
- Any additional, compelling information
Once you have completed the form and supplemental information, email (preferred) or mail all information to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Department of Natural Resources
Geographic Names Council - WY/3
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921
- Proposal Review Process
Proposals are received throughout the year and are processed and reviewed in the order submitted. The WGNC will begin gathering input from local and county governments in the fall. This allows 60 days to hold town and county meetings and respond with an opinion.
After local governments review the proposal, the WGNC will then meet and review the submission and any recommendations provided by the local municipality and county. If the WGNC finds enough evidence, they will decide if the name is approved, approved with conditions or denied.
The WGNC process is part of a national naming process managed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN). Decisions made by the WGNC in January are pending until final review by the BGN. The WGNC forwards all approved name proposals to the BGN. The BGN then reviews the name proposals for all 50 states. It may take several months before proposals make it to the active review list. If BGN approves the name, it is official at both the state and national levels. If there is a disagreement between the WGNC and BGN, the proposal may go through additional reviews before the WGNC and BGN render a final decision.
Who do I contact if I have questions about a name proposal?
Contact the WGNC Administrator by emailing email@example.com.
How do I know if the name I'm proposing is acceptable?
Review the WGNC and BGN Naming Policies. If your name does not violate those policies, it is acceptable.
What makes for a good name proposal?
The WGNC prefers to use names with historical, natural or cultural significance when possible. A proposal that justifies the name choice with evidence of historical or local usage of the name or demonstrates the name's significance to the history of that particular feature has a better chance of approval than a name proposal that proposes naming the feature after a beloved pet, for example.
How do I know the WGNC received my proposal?
The WGNC administrator will email you a confirmation that your proposal has been received. They may ask for additional information and are required to check the name proposal does not violate WGNC and BGN naming policies.
Who will contact me when my proposal is approved/denied?
You will receive a letter from the BGN when the name is approved and made official on state and federal records. If the WGNC denies your proposal, you will receive a letter from the DNR with the reason(s) for the denial.
How long does this process take?
It is challenging to give an accurate estimate. Most proposals will be closed within a year of the initial WGNC review in January. However, in some cases, the process can take longer.
- Additional Information
- September 5, 2023 -Geographic Names Council Meeting: Agenda
- June 19, 2023 - Geographic Names Council Meeting: Agenda / Minutes
- Jan. 30, 2023 - Geographic Names Council Meeting: Minutes
- Nov. 18, 2022 - Geographic Names Council Meeting: Agenda / Minutes
- March 24, 2022 - Geographic Names Council Meeting: Minutes
- WGNC History and Authority
- WGNC Geographic Powers and Duties: ch. 23.25(1), Wis. Stats.