BRF operates as a land trust, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to actively work to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in fee title land or easement acquisitions, and by managing and monitoring BRF land and easements. BRF also engages in educational efforts about the Buffalo National River and its watershed.

BRF's preferred option is a conservation easement, a legal agreement between the landowner and BRF that permanently limits a property's uses in order to protect its conservation values. This option is preferred because the landowner continues to own the property and may continue to live on it, restrict public access, sell it, or pass it on to heirs. An easement can be flexible, written to meet the particular needs of the landowner while protecting the property's conservation values. It is permanent, remaining in force when the land changes hands. Normally, landowners donate easements, satisfying their own wishes for long-term use of their property. Every easement is tailored to the specific needs of the property owner.

Permanent protection. Monitoring an easement or a nature preserve normally involves an annual visit by a BRF representative, to include contact with the landowner or custodian of the property. If BRF finds that terms of the easement have been violated, BRF will work with the landowner to correct the violation.