Policies to conserve endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) on private lands have evolved substantially over the last decade. To succeed, such policies must be responsive to the economic and regulatory realities faced by landowners. Landowner objectives vary widely; for some woodpecker conservation is prohibitively expensive, whereas for others, the costs are quite low. Given restrictions on timber harvesting in woodpecker habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), forest landowners have a potentially strong incentive to shorten forest rotations and to otherwise discourage woodpecker use on their property. Conservation of red-cockaded woodpeckers on private lands requires economic incentives, technical assistance, and regulatory assurances, including removing disincentives to habitat restoration. Since 1992, efforts to conserve the species have led to the development of memoranda of agreement, safe harbor agreements, habitat conservation plans, and conservation banking. For example, about 25% of red-cockaded woodpeckers found on private lands are now being protected pursuant to safe harbor agreements. Increased funding is needed to underwrite both incentive payments and the staff required to develop cooperative agreements and to provide technical and financial assistance to landowners. Additional efforts are needed to address threats from encroaching urbanization and the difficulty in using prescribed fire on private lands. © 2004 Ralph Costa. Abstract reproduced by permission.