Originally rinted in the February 2013 Natural Awakening Magazine.

Lost Lands Environmental Tours is a new company offering boat tours of the area’s coastal wetlands as a combination of eco-tourism, education and recreation. This new venture is working with environmental journalist and naturalist Bob Marshall to turn outdoor fun into a business that also provides “grasstops” advocacy – teaching people with authority about an important environmental issue.

Marie Gould andLindsay Pick have partnered in this endeavor, targeting convention attendees and tourists, but also local folks interested in seeing the wetlands by boat. Gould said she got the bug long ago when she started taking boat trips out in the marshes and swamps with Marshall, her husband.

Louisiana wetlands are disappearing at a rapid rate – scientists have estimated a football field every 30 minutes- and Marshall has been writing stories about this issue and others related to it in his Times-Picayune column for years. Now he gets to lead tours where he can teach visitors and newcomers to the area about the issue he holds so dear.

“We tell them the whole history of our wetlands – how they were built, how they have degraded, and what the impact is on the fishermen and our national eco

nomy,” Marshall said. “We then get to take them out and show them the beauty and just how perilous a situation this region is in and what it means to New Orleans and the nation.”

The tour leaders s

tay in contact with their customers by email to keep them informed of issues that come up in Congress that could impact Louisiana’s wetlands so they can contact their representatives.

“This is not just taking people out to throw marshmallows to alligators, Marshall said. “This is an educational program… We hope to increase the number of advocates.”

The firm officially began operations in March 2012, and has since won a fellowship  from Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (now Propeller) and was in the first round of this year’s Idea Village Water Challenge. The tours are mostly by kayak, although some groups go out in motorized boats. The excursions are very customized and often locations depend on the wind and the tide, since water level changes so much and can cause trouble for boats.