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There is a relationship between biodiversity conservation and the cultural practices of indigenous and traditional peoples regarding land and resource use. To conserve biodiversity we need to understand how these cultures interact with landscapes and shape them in ways that contribute to the continued renewal of ecosystems. This article examines the significance of traditional knowledge and management systems and their implications for biodiversity conservation. We start by introducing one key traditional ecological practice, succession management, in particular through the use of fire. We then turn to the example of the indigenous use of boreal forest ecosystems of northern Canada, with a focus on the Anishnaabe (Ojibwa) of north-western Ontario. Their traditional practices and cultural landscapes provide temporal and spatial biodiversity, and examples of the mechanisms that conserve biodiversity. Learning from traditional systems is important for broadening conservation objectives that can accommodate the sustainable livelihoods of local people. The lens of cultural landscapes provides a mechanism to understand how multiple objectives (timber production, non-timber forest products, protected areas, tourism) are central to sustainable forest management in landscapes that conserve heritage values and support the livelihood needs of local people. The use of broader and more inclusive definitions of conservation and multiple, integrated objectives can help reconcile local livelihood needs and biodiversity conservation.