It is now routinely possible to generate genomics‐scale datasets for nonmodel species; however, many questions remain about how best to use these data for conservation and management. Some recent genomics studies of anadromous Pacific salmonids have reported a strong association between alleles at one or a very few genes and a key life history trait (adult migration timing) that has played an important role in defining conservation units. Publication of these results has already spurred a legal challenge to the existing framework for managing these species, which was developed under the paradigm that most phenotypic traits are controlled by many genes of small effect, and that parallel evolution of life history traits is common. But what if a key life history trait can only be expressed if a specific allele is present? Does the current framework need to be modified to account for the new genomics results, as some now propose? Although this real‐world example focuses on Pacific salmonids, the issues regarding how genomics can inform us about the genetic basis of phenotypic traits, and what that means for applied conservation, are much more general. In this perspective, we consider these issues and outline a general process that can be used to help generate the types of additional information that would be needed to make informed decisions about the adequacy of existing conservation and management frameworks.