The Geographic Names Information System holds the Federally recognized name of and a location for physical and cultural geographic features of all types in the United States, current and historical, but not including roads and highways. The database assigns a unique, permanent feature identifier as a standard Federal key for accessing, integrating, or reconciling feature data from multiple data sets. The GNIS collects data from a broad program of partnerships with Federal, State, and local government agencies and other authorized contributors. The GNIS provides data to all levels of government and to the public, as well as to numerous applications through a web query site, web map and feature services, file download services, and customized files upon request.The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is the Federal standard for geographic nomenclature. The U.S. Geological Survey developed the GNIS for the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a Federal inter-agency body chartered by public law to maintain uniform feature name usage throughout the Government and to promulgate standard names to the public. The GNIS is the official repository of domestic geographic names data; the official vehicle for geographic names use by all departments of the Federal Government; and the source for applying geographic names to Federal electronic and printed products of all types.This version of the GNIS was developed from the Montana GNIS text file dated August 1, 2012 that was available on the USGS web site at http://geonames.usgs.gov/domestic/download_data.htm. The State Library has performed extensive edits to the data, which are described in the Supplemental Information section of this metadata document.
The GNIS is an inventory and location of place names, to promote geographic feature name standardization, and serves as the Federal Government's repository of information regarding feature name spellings and applications for features in U.S. The names listed in the inventory can be published on Federal maps, charts, and in other documents. The feature locative information has been used in emergency preparedness, marketing, site-selection and analysis, genealogical and historical research, and transportation routing applications.
Each feature is represented in this file by its "primary point". A geographic feature may have only one primary point regardless of size or extent. A point feature is defined by this single coordinate on the USGS National Base Map series at a scale of 1:24000 or 1:25000. The primary point of a linear feature depends on the feature class. If feature class equals stream, valley or arroyo, the primary point is the mouth. The primary point of a canal, channel, or trail is the center. The primary point of a ridge is the highest point. The primary point of an areal feature is the approximate geographic center with the following exceptions: The primary point of a populated place is the center of original place, if known, such as the city or town hall, main post office, or town square regardless of changes over time; The primary point of a reservoir is the center of the dam; The primary point of a summit, range, ridge, or pillar is the highest point. These points do not represent feature boundaries or geometries and should not be confused with them.
The GNIS text file from USGS contained over 20,000 un-named wells, mines, and springs that have been deleted from this copy of the GNIS.
The text file contained many features that are partially in Montana, but whose primary coordinates are outside of the state. In this copy, the coordinate has been moved to the nearest appropriate location on the state boundary.
Before 2005, features entered into the GNIS were assigned elevations if the GNIS staff noted an elevation printed on a topographic map. The current GNIS from USGS has an elevation for every feature, estimated from the National Elevation Dataset. In this copy of the GNIS, the estimated elevations have been replaced by the old GNIS elevations where they are available. Additionally, many elevations, especially of mountain peaks, have been replaced by the elevations printed on current 1:24,000 scale topographic maps.
This copy of the GNIS also has many corrections in the names, feature classes, and locations of features that have been noted at the State Library. A list of all the difference between this copy of the GNIS and the official version at USGS has been forwarded to the USGS for their consideration and are available on request. All of the features in this copy of the GNIS have a value in the Change_Log field that indicate what sorts of edits have been performed on them.
The State Library and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) cooperated in 2012 to synchronize the GNIS with FWP's property database, which includes state parks, wildlife management areas, and fishing access sites. Scores of FWP properties which were not in the GNIS have been added to this data set, and the GNIS_ID field has been arbitrarily assigned values less than zero.