The U.S. Endangered Species Act has enabled species conservation but has differentially impacted fire management and rare bird conservation in the southern and western U.S. In the south, prescribed fire and restoration-based forest thinning are commonly used to conserve the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, whereas in the west, land managers continue to suppress fire across the diverse habitats of the northern, Californian, and Mexican spotted owls. Although the habitat needs of the woodpecker and the owl are not identical, substantial portions of both species' ranges have historically been exposed to relatively frequent, low- to moderate-intensity fires. Active management with fire and thinning has benefited the red-cockaded woodpecker but proves challenging in the Western U.S. USDA Forest Service research suggests that the Western U.S. could benefit from the adoption of a similar innovative approach through policy, public–private partnerships, and complementarity of endangered species management with multiple objectives. These changes would likely balance long-term goals of spotted owl conservation and enhance forest resilience.