The pilot cull would take place in an area of north Pembrokeshire
A cull of badgers in Wales to eradicate bovine TB has moved a step nearer after the rural affairs minister began the next stage of the legal process.
Elin Jones said she will sign an Order which will give Welsh ministers the powers to implement a cull.
It comes after £25m was paid to farmers whose 12,000 cattle were put down after contracting TB in 2008.
But opposition groups to the plans say a cull of badgers will not stop the spread of the disease.
A public consultation where 741 people responded showed 50% were opposed to a cull.
However, 49% said a cull could help eradicate bovine TB if carried out alongside other cattle measures.
Any cull is unlikely before April.
Ms Jones said more preparatory work was needed to decide on an area in north Pembrokeshire where a proposed cull could take place.
She said land owners and badgers setts in the area would need to be identified first "to give farmers the information they crave about who's in and who's out".
She said she expected to have that information in the near future.
She added that the cull could not happen between January and April as there was a risk of leaving young badgers without a mother.
The minister announced in March that any cull would involve trapping the badgers in cages and shooting them.
She said: "Following the recent consultation on legal powers, and consideration of the responses submitted, I am still of the view that a badger cull in an intensive action pilot area (IAPA) is necessary as part of our programme to eradicate bovine TB.
"I have always said that any cull of badgers could only go ahead when all preparatory work is complete.
"This Order is an important step towards completing that work, providing the necessary legal powers for a Welsh Assembly Government-managed cull."
The Order will come into force in 21 days. Assembly members have 40 days period to propose a motion that the Order be annulled.
Ms Jones said the move did not mean all badgers in Wales would be culled in the future and an assessment of the north Pembrokeshire pilot would have to be undertaken.
Wales' chief vet Christianne Glossop said she anticipated between 1,000 and 2,000 badgers were in the pilot area.
The minister said TB in cattle was one of the "biggest threats facing the dairy and beef industry in Wales".
She said over 12,000 cattle were culled because of the disease last year, and nearly £25m spent in compensation.
However, a new opposition group, Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, has said some scientific research found a badger cull would not stop the disease.
Professor Bill Reilly, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) welcomed the move and said TB eradication was a "huge priority".
He said: "We understand that they have to do this properly and we support the need for preparatory work to be carried out ahead of the cull.
"With the legal requirements being put in place today we hope that work can progress quickly, for the benefit of both badgers and cattle."
Both farming unions in Wales also supported the announcement.
NFU Cymru president Dai Davies said: "There has been a significant tightening up of cattle measures in Wales in recent years but these alone have failed to curb the escalation of disease".
Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) spokesman Brian Walters, who farms in Carmarthenshire, added: "We simply cannot go on killing more and more cattle when all the evidence points to badgers being the most significant source of disease in our worst hit areas."