Until the end of the twentieth century, mountain areas were primarily the province of national law. An international law of mountains emerged with the negotiation of the Alpine Convention and the Carpathian Convention in Europe and with the developments of the Andean Pact in South America. There were occasional bilateral agreements on mountain issues, such as the early “peace park” combining the Glacier National Park (USA) and Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada) in the upper Rocky Mountains. However, unlike the international agreements that nations developed for international rivers over the past three centuries, mountains did not seem to need treaties. Montane regions were not used in transfrontier commerce or for their water supplies, and thus the law governing human activity in the mountains remained a legal concern only for each nation wherein mountains were found. Until recently, States chose not to consider regional stewardship of mountainous areas that transverse either over more than one State or more than one political subdivision within a State.
Within nations, important steps were taken to develop environmentally sound management systems for mountains, as, for instance, the experiences with New York's Adirondack Mountains illustrate. Mountains were far away from large human settlements, and many nations found it easier to set aside development in mountains, in preference to other uses.