Understanding the relationship between biodiversity and people outside protected areas is a great challenge to biologists and policy makers. Vegetation use and traditional conservation practices by local communities was studied in Mongu and Senanga districts in Western province of Zambia. The focus was mainly on woody species for practical reasons. At least 57 species of woody plants were found to be useful among the local people. These were used for construction, medicines, food and firewood. There was no significant difference in the way people in the two districts use vegetation for medicines and food, but there was a difference in uses for construction and firewood. Senanga was found to have a relatively higher number of species that were regularly in use. Within each of the two districts, gender, age and geographical location were factors found to affect the use of vegetation. There was no difference in the use of vegetation for food and firewood between villages near and those further away from forests, but differences were found in medicinal and construction species, where people living near forests mentioned much higher number of species. Of the species being used, four are declining, predominantly those used for construction while four species are observed to be increasing in abundance. Traditional conservation methods exist among the local people. These include preservation of sacred landscapes acting as refugia for threatened species, myths and taboos restricting use through dos and don’ts, spiritual values associated with forests and individual species, and harvesting methods. The local administration had administered rules and regulations before Zambia gained independence. Although traditional conservation methods are under threat due to population increase, acculturation and commercialisation of plants with market value, these practices have substantially contributed to conservation of forest biodiversity. the cumulative impact of selective harvesting of woody species especially for construction and firewood may induce positive and negative feedbacks on forests and thus impact on the overall both stability of the forest ecosystem. The combination of species and ecosystem conservation approach through community natural resources management provide a supplementary option to traditional conservation methods already in practice. For continued sustainability of forest biodiversity, conservation and management strategies need to recognise local knowledge in both content and practice.