Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) populations are declining across western North America due to synergies of disturbances, both natural and anthropogenic. Losses at treeline may result in significant changes to the upper subalpine zone, which may result in a regime shift, thus affecting the ecological goods and services whitebark pine systems provide for other species, including humans. Management and restoration should acknowledge the coupled social-ecological dynamics of high-elevation forest systems. Resilience is proposed as an appropriate framework for understanding social-ecological systems because it acknowledges complexity and uncertainty in a changing world. Mismatches of scale (spatial, temporal and functional) are increasingly problematic in management, and can lead to a loss of resilience in connected systems, often years or decades after management strategies have been implemented. Identifying mismatches in whitebark pine systems may inform long-term restoration strategies across jurisdictional boundaries. This paper reviews resilience concepts, with an emphasis on scalar mismatches and the problem of ‘fit'. A conceptual framework is proposed to measure the functional fit between institutions in a jurisdictionally diverse, transboundary region and the capacity to manage high-elevation whitebark pine systems.