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For more information about the Geographic Names Council, contact
David Winston

Wisconsin Geographic Names Council

This council meets only once a year. So, proposals for Geographic Name Changes occur at a slow pace. Below is the information about name changes.

History

The duties and functions of the State Geographic Board were transferred by Section 25(1) (A) of Chapter 75, Laws of 1967, to the Natural Resources Board. Subsequently the Natural Resources Board assigned the duties and functions to the Division of Resource Management, and retained the State Chief Engineer, the State Geologist, the State Cartographer and a designee from the Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, as advisors as a Geographic Names Council.

Statutory Authority - Section 23.25 Wis. Statutes: Geographic Powers and Duties

  • The department shall:
    • (a) Determine the correct and most appropriate names of the lakes, streams, places and other geographic features in the state, and the spelling thereof;
    • (b) Pass upon and give names to lakes, streams, places and other geographic features in the state for which no single generally accepted name has been in use;
    • (c) In cooperation with county boards and with their approval, to change the names of lakes, streams, places and other geographic features, with the end in view of eliminating, as far as possible, duplication of names within the state;
    • (d) Prepare and publish an official state dictionary of geographic names and to publish the same, either as a completed whole or in parts when ready;
    • (e) Serve as the state representative of the U. S. geographic board and cooperate with the said board to the end that there shall be no conflict between the state and federal designations of geographic features in the state.
  • Whenever the department has given a name to any lake, stream, place or other geographic feature within the state, or determined the correct spelling of any such name, it shall be used in all maps, reports and other publications thereafter issued by the state or any of its political subdivisions, and shall be deemed the official name of such geographic feature.
  • No person shall in any advertisement or publication attempt to modify local usage or name unnamed geographic features without first obtaining the approval of the department. In case of a violation of this subsection, the department may promptly announce its disapproval and thereafter adopt an official name for such feature.

Policies of the State of Wisconsin Geographic Names Council

It is the policy of the State of Wisconsin Geographic Names Council:

  • (A) Not to name a geographic feature after any living person.
  • (B) Names having a scientific derivation are not as a rule acceptable.
  • (C) Names with historical significance or with Indian or French origin are usually appropriate, but care should be exercised that the Indian names are from tribes native to Wisconsin. They should not be too long nor difficult of pronunciation,
  • (D) That newly acquired proper names for geographic features shall not be designated with " 's " or "s", indicating possession, following the name. For example: Mott Lake, rather than Mott's Lake or Motts Lake.
  • (E) That only lakes 10 acres or more in size shall be considered by the Council for naming unless reason is evidenced for special consideration by the Council. For example: significant public use.
  • (F) That only streams 5 miles or more in length shall be considered by the Council for naming unless reason is evidenced for special consideration by the Council. For example: trout stream.

The U. S. Board on geographic names has indicated the following guidelines with reference to the naming of geographic features:

  • (A) That local usage be followed whenever possible.
  • (B) That the specific name precede the generic name; for example, preference is given to Alice Lake rather than Lake Alice.
  • (C) That whenever practicable the recommended names include single names only followed by the generic name; for example, preference is given to Meyer Lake rather then John Meyer Lake.
  • (D) That hyphens be omitted in newly established names.
  • (E) That descriptive words such as "Big", "Little", etc. be eliminated unless they are necessary for proper identification of the feature.