There is critical need for more information on the status of forests in Central Asia, to inform conservation management. Here we assess the status and use of the globally important, threatened walnut–fruit forests of Dashtijum Nature Reserve, Tajikistan. We use a mixed methods approach combining a semi-structured interview based socio-economic survey with statistical analysis. Thirty-three tree species were recorded, with Rosaceae the most common family. The mean basal area of the forest was 20.8 m2 per ha and most tree species exhibited stable population structures. Resource use was prevalent throughout the community; most households harvested at least one fruit or nut species (78%), firewood (88%) and grazed livestock (85%). Most respondents noted declines in availability of fruits, nuts and firewood and reported a decrease in the overall area and quality of grazing. Statistical analysis and machine learning identified that distance to nearest settlement significantly affected forest total basal area, tree species richness and the Shannon index, a metric of diversity sensitive to rare species. Our results suggest that conservation management by the government and NGOs is partly effective but there is a need for increased enforcement of grazing restrictions, to prevent further forest degradation.