Phillip Hanceford, conservation director at The Wilderness Society, dies at 41

Phillip Howard Hanceford, conservation director at The Wilderness Society, an environmental attorney, conservationist and musician, died on Aug. 14 in Denver. He was 41.

Hanceford, a University of Colorado Law School graduate, worked at The Wilderness Society for 15 years championing protection of public lands in the West — “from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to conservation areas in the Pacific Northwest, the Mojave Desert, and countless other places,” according to a statement on the society’s website.

He supported the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE)  Act, a federal bill that plans to safeguard more than 400,000 acres of wildlands along the Continental Divide, Thompson Divide and San Juan Mountains. A musician, Hanceford wrote and performed a song with colleagues and friends about CORE. A video was posted online by TWS in memoriam.

“Phil had an incredibly joyful, positive influence on all he touched,” the TWS said. “All of us at The Wilderness Society, and everyone who knew Phil, will forever remember his dogged determination, his deep expertise, and his kindness to others. He leaves behind a legacy of protected public lands that will be a testament to his incredible work for generations to come.”

Hanceford was born Aug. 15, 1980, in Atlanta, Ga., the youngest of two children to Stephen Hanceford and Lee Dygert. While attending Appalachian State University, from which he graduated, Hanceford became deeply interested in Appalachia, bluegrass music and playing the mandolin.

While attending law school in Boulder, Hanceford interned at TWS. He graduated in 2007 and joined the nonprofit organization as an attorney, becoming conservation director in the Denver office.

“Steve” Hanceford, of Berthoud, remembers his son as “a special guy who had a lot of friends and was a natural leader. He was joyful and passionate about people and the planet.”

A natural storyteller, Hanceford enjoyed writing, playing and singing with bands, including the Hayward Strangers and the Ginny Mules. Keenan Copple, his life partner, plays banjo and slide guitar in each band.

Hanceford is survived by his parents; his wife, Keenan; their daughter, Hazel; a sister, Megan Hanceford Meyer; and extended family and friends.

A celebration of life will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Sept. 22, at the Wildflower Pavilion Planet Bluegrass, 500 W. Main St., Lyons. Memorial contributions may be made to The Wilderness Society.


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