Welcome to the
Council of Geographic
in the United States
The Council of Geographic Names Authorities (COGNA) is an organization of
state and federal government agencies representing the official and
recognized geographic names
authorities in the United States. COGNA's goal is to promote national standardization
of the names of geographic features for official use throughout the country.
goal is sought through cooperation among federal and state agencies that
have responsibilities for naming geographic features and cultural entities
as mandated by the United States Board on
Geographic Names (USBGN).
Standardization of geographic
names is important because confusion, uncertainty, and misunderstanding may
occur when more than one name is used for the same place or feature, when the
same name is applied to different features, or the spelling of a name is
The national standardization of geographic
names results in incalculable savings in time and money by increasing the
efficiency of a nation’s government and other institutions. This
standardization can prevent misunderstanding, and just as important, can
eliminate the inconsistency that occurs when different people try to
determine proper name use with varying results. National standardization
also allows a country to exercise its prerogative to establish its own
standard names. The standardization of
geographic names in the United States started in 1890 when President William
Harrison signed an Executive Order creating the United States Board on
Geographic Names whose authority was expanded by Public Law 242—80 of the 80th
Congress: Chapter 330—1st Session; S. 1262, 1947.
While the USBGN has the final authority on approving geographic names for
official federal government usage, the input of state, local governments and
ordinary citizens has great influence over its decisions.
The process cannot be carried out
unilaterally or arbitrarily because the subject touches the daily lives of
all citizens. The use of geographic names is interwoven into the fabric of
society—language, tradition, and long-standing records. Establishing
standardized name usage is a process that requires sensitivity to public
interest, accomplished by close communication and cooperation between
various levels of government and the citizens they represent.
of the USBGN are contained in the
Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) containing all of the
official names for federal usage. A great majority of these names are those
that have been in long-term usage by the public. The public is encouraged
to submit name changes and new names for unnamed features for consideration
as official names.
Many state governments have official geographic names boards while other
states are less active having only an interested person assigned or voluntarily
reviewing name proposals for their states. One mission of COGNA is to
encourage all state governments to take an active role in the geographic
name decision process by maintaining their own name authorities who, in
turn, advise the federal board on official name decisions and policies. In
addition, COGNA encourages use of the official names in GNIS at all levels of
government and the public. State names authorities also promote throughout
state government and the citizenry an awareness of the importance of and
procedures for geographic name standardization.
COGNA was established to provide a dependable planning mechanism for its
annual conferences, to carry out certain work directed by its members, and
to provide a central office for the purpose of communication. The principal
business of COGNA is conducted at annual conferences attended by members and
other interested persons from throughout the United States. Persons
involved in geographic name activities in other countries also attend.
Any person interested in any aspect of geographic names are encouraged to
attend and participate in the annual conferences.
T. Wayne Furr, Executive Secretary
Council of Geographic Names Authorities
3400 36th Avenue NE
Norman, OK 73026-7809
Telephone: (405) 830-9848 mobile