Distant place names

Out here in the ‘Big Open’ counties are large, with few small towns whose Zip Code may over lap those political boundaries. Plants and insects are likely wide spread; but for birds and critters it would be nice to have a localized road or geographical feature name to focus on.

Case in point: the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has a request for information of Greater Short-horned Lizard observations. Checking a search here for Carbon County, Montana, most are on the south side of the Pryor Mountain just north of Wyoming, and return quite a few Bridger 25 to 30 air miles away, with several just Montana.

Just takes a few seconds to zoom in on the base map to get at least a county road name. Thanks, ML

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Are you asking a question? Do you want a new feature? Maybe you want to add new places?


Making a statement that mapping apps location place names can easily be improved on. ML

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Well yes, no doubt they could be, but depending on where you are, I’m not sure place names are going to help all that much. At least here in the mountains of Italy, named roads are few and far between, villages even more so and even major topographical features can often be without names (or named ambiguously) on even the best of maps, let alone the sources used in mapping apps. Perhaps I haven’t understood exactly what you’re trying to do and I confess I’ve never actually tried it, but wouldn’t it be easier and more accurate to do a map search based on the exact area you’re trying to query, perhaps using a kml to delimit the boundaries?

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My queries are by species on a state or county scale. When that list comes up it is nice to do a quick scan down the place names; and then maybe pin a Lat/Long on my iNaturalist folder in Google Earth Pro. ML

Most of my Lat/Longs are from recreational grade (HH2) GPS. Others are plucked from a zoomed in Google Earth Pro satellite view. I have tested this method at the base of a power-pole shadow several times, and find very close correlation to a fairly long HH2 occupation.

The western USA rectangular survey also provides a lot of finite points to scale from. ML

Living and working in the interior western US, one quickly learns that placenames can be few and far between. Our counties can be huge, bigger even than some eastern US states. County road names don’t always show up in Google Earth and you really need old paper maps to find them. Some places have names but there’s “no there there” – the location name lives on but the community is long gone. Trying to pin down the locations of old records that don’t have lat-long or other coordinates associated with them can be difficult. And some placenames get used more than once so you can’t be sure which one is being referred to. But I love the challenge.

That said, I’m sure there are other places in the world that are far worse in terms of finding locations.


As someone who had to geocode hundreds of old, text-based locations from specimens for their masters, I will take lat long (decimal degrees) every time.


I always rather liked the township-range-section system. That narrows it down to a square mile.

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Montana Cadastral frequently has a more up to date satellite base map than Google Earth, and I have used it to fine-tune a scaled location; and/or ownership It currently shows the approximate peak of the June 2022 Yellowstone River flood at Livingston, Montana.

Kayaked past there 17 Sept 23, but could not get a bird to perch on the washed out globs of concrete. Actually have 10 plus years of photos showing the build up of the gravel bar that has made the river left channel there ‘high water only’. ML

Back before GPS, I used that T-R-S system a lot for specimen records within my state in the US. Kind of a crazy system but it did allow you to narrow down the location quite a bit, even within a square mile (section). E.g., you could do something like “the NW 1/4 of SW 1/4 of Section 12, Township 33, Range 25.”

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