Arizona State Library
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
The Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names has statutory responsibility for determining the most appropriate names for place names in Arizona.
Arizona Revised Statues, Title 41, Chapter 4.1, Article 3 (ARS §41-835 through §41-838) establishes the State Board on Geographic and Historic Names.
The significance of geographic names was recognized by the State as early as 1945, when Arizona's Legislature declared it to be the policy of the state that geographic features retain the names they currently had in order to preserve Arizona's historical records. In 1982, the Arizona Board was created, and in 1990, the Arizona Legislature gave responsibility for determining the most appropriate names for geographic features to it.
Meetings are conducted quarterly and are open to the public. Agendas are posted on the calendar and minutes are archived for public review.
The Board is composed of one member appointed by the head of each of the following agencies or organizations: the Department of Transportation, the State Land Department, the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, the Arizona Historical Society, the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Department of Economic Security, and a geography department of an Arizona university. Two additional members of the public are appointed by the governor.
To help your understanding of the policies, practices and procedures the board follows in deciding a name issue for the State of Arizona, the following documents and web links are provided:
The Arizona Board follows the Principles, Policies and Procedures of the United States Board on Geographic Names
The Arizona Board has resolved to increase awareness of the Board and proactively communicate its role in the State of Arizona.
The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (USBGN), contains information on nearly 2 million physical and cultural features in the United States. The federally recognized name of each feature described in the database is identified and references are made to a feature’s location by state, county and geographic coordinates. The GNIS is the nation’s official repository of domestic geographic names information.
All name proposals must include a completed Application, supporting documentation and a map showing the location of the feature.
The board considers information provided by the proponent, opponents, if any, and the board's staff in its deliberations on proposed names. The board's support staff contacts the appropriate local, county and state governmental agencies, Native American tribal governments and also conducts independent, systematic, thorough research for background on the historical and current local usage of a proposed name. This can take some time, therefore, the more documentation the board receives from a proponent, the easier it is for the board to decide on a name proposal.
These procedures allow anyone from the public or a government agency to propose a name and allow for public input at open meetings, both for and against a proposed name. The board goes to this effort in furtherance of its statutory charge to preserve and protect the state's history as reflected in Arizona's geographic names.