As 2023 draws to a close, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) will transition into the beginning of the next half-century. Looking ahead, we observe a notably positive shift in how the Act is being implemented. Over the first 50 years, we accumulated a wealth of knowledge, developed numerous regulations and processes, and succeeded in preventing the extinction of many species, while a few were even put on the path to recovery. Regrettably, for some, the ESA came into play a bit too late. During this initial half-century, conflicts often arose in the implementation of the Act, both among agencies and the public. However, these conflicts have served as valuable lessons. Many articles have been written on various aspects of the ESA's application, but I can sum up the lessons learned succinctly: “The carrot tends to be more effective than the stick.” Innovative approaches to ESA implementation, where species are viewed as assets rather than liabilities by private and public landowners, are the way forward.