Endangered species conservation faces well-documented funding shortfalls for recovery activities, but the listing process itself is also often hampered by limited resources at the federal, state, and provincial levels. In the United States, Canada, and other jurisdictions, the number of species proposed for listing has outpaced listing decisions, creating large backlogs of candidate species. In Washington State, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and The SeaDoc Society (SeaDoc), a nongovernmental university-based organization, entered into a unique public–private partnership to advance the state-level listing process for the tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), a candidate species since 1998. Using privately-raised funds, SeaDoc hired a visiting scientist to co-author the status report with WDFW staff. This collaboration continued through editing, revising, peer review, and the public comment period, and resulted in the tufted puffin being listed as endangered in Washington. We discuss the advantages and potential pitfalls of this joint effort, as well as the broad applicability of this model in other jurisdictions with a backlog of species awaiting endangered species listing consideration.