The sustainable development of mountain areas largely depends on the effectiveness of institutional environment. The mountains often face the fact that rapid changes in political conditions have led to contradictions with slowly changing local institutions. The unification of the institutional diversity of mountains through the introduction of new laws (as a rule, prepared outside the mountains) led to the emergence of conflict situations. To ensure sustainable development of mountain areas, it is necessary to clearly define property rights that are consistent with local conditions and institutions. The paper will analyze modern legal initiatives to improve the legal framework for the sustainable development of mountainous areas in Russia, where mountains occupy more than 50% of the territory. In Russia, there is still no purposeful policy in relation to mountainous areas. The realization of the importance of mountains and the "discovery" that Russia is a mountainous country came in recent decades. For a long time, the “invisibility” of mountains in the policy of the Russian Federation was associated with the fact that the significance of the mountains was underestimated: there was not even an accurate calculation of the area of ??the mountains, the mountains were considered not typical for Russia and sparsely populated. Insufficient information about the mountains did not contribute to the emergence of public opinion and the development of mountain policy, which could ensure a higher political significance of the mountains. The current focus on mountain issues is largely determined by the influence of the transfer of knowledge and experience from other mountainous countries. Institutional development initiatives are expressed in the development of a number of regional laws, as well as a model law of the CIS "On the development and protection of mountain areas" (2020).