In the Madrean Sky Islands of western North America, a mixture of public and private land ownership and tenure creates a complex situation for collaborative efforts in conservation. In this case study, we describe the current ownership and management structures in the US-Mexico borderlands where social, political, and economic conditions create extreme pressures on the environment and challenges for conservation. On the US side of the border, sky island mountain ranges are almost entirely publicly owned and managed by federal, state and tribal organizations that manage and monitor species, habitats, and disturbances including fire. In contrast, public lands are scarce in the adjacent mountain ranges of Mexico, rather, a unique system of private parcels and communal lands make up most of Mexico's Natural Protected Areas. Several of the Protected Area reserves in Mexico form a matrix that serves to connect scattered habitats for jaguars dispersing northward toward public and private reserves in the U.S. from their northernmost breeding areas in Mexico. Despite administrative or jurisdictional boundaries superimposed upon the landscape, we identify two unifying management themes that encourage collaborative management of transboundary landscape processes and habitat connectivity: jaguar conservation and wildfire management. Our case study promotes understanding of conservation challenges as they are perceived and managed in a diversity of settings across the US-Mexico borderlands. Ultimately, recognizing the unique and important contributions of people living and working under different systems of land ownership and tenure will open doors for partnerships in achieving common goals.